Uh oh... this is something we're all a little guilty of. Putting this huge mistake simply: sometimes we do too much. More specifically, doing too much of the same thing at once. We end up overexerting and prioritizing getting things done over our health. Instead, we need to learn how to alternate!
Over the last few years, there has been a spike of interest in productivity. How can we get more done doing less work in less time? Sure, there are many "productivity hacks" but do those help fibromyalgia fighters or hurt us by causing major flares?
In this blog, we're challenging a common productivity hack and putting our own fibromyalgia spin on it!
Being Productive with Fibromyalgia
Here's a fun fact that you might not know about me: I worked full-time while attending a full-time graduate program. And yes, I have fibromyalgia. At the time, I just put my head down and did the work, but I often wonder how I did it…
During that hectic and stressful time, I often found myself listening to podcasts and audiobooks about being productive. While I don't do that as much now, I get some weird joy from doing things in the most efficient way possible.
One of the things that most productivity gurus preach about is the idea of batching. Batching is when you do the same or similar tasks all at once. Batching tasks prevents you from going back and forth because real talk: multitasking does not work no matter who you are. Some batching examples:
Instead of having your email open all day, check it and respond at the beginning and end of your workday.
Instead of researching, outline, writing, and editing a blog post all in one day, research a month's worth of blog posts at once.
Instead of running an errand here and there, save all errands for one Saturday morning.
Forget Productivity Hacks—Do This Instead
Batching makes sense, but it can be challenging and exhausting for those with chronic pain and fatigue. Instead, I recommend thinking about every task on your to-do list with two gauges—a physical energy gauge and a mental energy gauge and switching between them. Physically demanding tasks usually include movement, like taking a walk or doing a chore. Mentally demanding tasks can be emotional or require focus. After a good night of sleep, you ideally would have a full physical gauge and full mental energy gauge. However, every task on your to-do list takes some fuel from at least one of the fuel gauges.
Write out your to-do list and mark a P next to a physically demanding task and M next to a mentally demanding task. Some tasks can have both.
Let's look at an example of a to-do list:
Taking a walk
Reading the newspaper or watching the news
Calling a friend
Instead of doing task after task that wears you out physically, break it up by doing a more physically demanding task, then do a seated (possibly mentally demanding task), take a mindful break, and repeat.
Here is a way to alternate physically and mentally demanding tasks and avoid flares:
Taking a walk P
Balancing checkbook M
Take a break!
Grocery shopping PM
·Calling a friend M
Take a break!
Cooking dinner PM
Take a break!
Reading or watching news M
Doing dishes P
See how you still got your to-do list done without doing too much? It's possible with a little bit of planning!
Check It Out
We've created a free step-by-step guide on how to pace the things you've been avoiding (like exercising, getting together with friends, taking a long walk) without flaring!
Fibromyalgia is not a "one size fits all" diagnosis. What works for some doesn't work for others. The information provided is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Should you have any health-related questions, please consult your physician or other health care provider promptly.
Hannah is an occupational therapist, fellow fibromyalgia warrior, and co-founder of Fight Against Fibro. We're on a mission for a life with less stress and more energy.