How To Be As Productive As Possible When You’re Sick

Jim Woods

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It all starts with a sniffle or a cough. You ignore the warning signs and power through anyway. Finally, your body starts to rebel, and your head feels like it is in the clouds. Let’s face it: you’re sick. You need to rest. 

We’ve all been there. It's no fun to be sick.

What can you do to be as productive as possible?

First, Admit You’re Sick

Once you admit you’re not feeling well, you can manage your expectations. This is quite possibly the most important step toward being productive. Why? You may need to take some time off to rest and heal. Being as self-aware is a foundational element of your personal productivity, so just be honest with yourself. Working too hard when you’re under the weather can do more harm than good. You can actually shorten your illness by getting the rest you need.

Allow Others To Step In

I know it is common to try to do it all on your own, but in most cases, the best move is to ask for some help from your co-workers, team members or family members. Ask for a deadline extension or to reschedule a meeting. You may even want to set up your email autoresponder to let people know they won’t receive a response for a few days. In most situations, you’ll receive grace and empathy.

Build Yourself A Buffer

You can give yourself some breathing room by working ahead whenever possible. (Working by mode is very helpful for this, but I’ll talk about that more in a second.) Let’s face it: no one plans on being sick. And if you have kids, as you know, when one child gets sick, soon the rest of the family gets sick, right? By working ahead you can give yourself some breathing room in your calendar and stay more productive over the long-term.

Be Okay With Taking Some Time Off

We all have a tendency to want to do more and be more productive. It’s not a race; we are not in competition with one another. Remember, productivity is personal. Rest is an important part of life; in order to perform at high levels, rest is a requirement.

Theming Your Days Can Really Help

I know this sounds a bit odd at first, but just hear me out: you assign a theme to each day. For example, you might have Monday as “Admin Day.” Tuesday could be “Meeting Day.” I’m not saying that is the only thing you do on those days. Rather, that is just theme for the day. You likely don’t have an entire days worth of meetings, right? (I hope!) Having a Meeting Day takes away a lot of the confusion when it comes to structuring your week. 

Let’s say that you got sick on Meeting Day. You could simply change out one day for the other. I personally like to theme Fridays as my “Wrap Up Day.” Because of illness, I would just swap out Wrap Up Day for Meeting Day if possible. If not possible, I would try to reschedule the meetings for the following Wednesday. 

The Takeaway

We all get sick from time to time. It is really unavoidable, especially if you have young kids. Don't beat yourself up about it. Instead, use these guidelines to create a system of sorts that works for you and then you will be able to move forward. And, most importantly, try to take care of yourself when you aren't sick. That will help prevent you from being sick. Don't ever overlook the importance of sleep, proper diet and exercise. Those three tools will help you be as productive as possible.

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