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Over the past 30+ years of living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, I’ve discovered some insights that help me live a more productive, happy life.

This week I’m sharing my top 3 lessons from living with a chronic illness that will help you make the most out of your time and energy too.

#1 Lesson: Momentum

We are familiar with the idea that an object in motion will stay in motion. This concept is why we wear seat belts. Because if your car comes to a sudden stop in a car crash, your body will continue moving, and that’s why we have seatbelts and airbags to keep us safer in the car and slow us down.

One of the ways I apply this principle to get things done is by following the idea of “I don’t sit until I can sit.” For example, when I worked in a corporate job, I did not sit down right away when I came home. Instead, I changed my clothes, started supper, usually made my lunch for the next day, and did any other chores I could while making dinner. Then after eating dinner, I could just sit and relax. Once I sat down, I was sitting for most of the evening.

Next time you’re struggling to do something like organizing your desk, make the decision that you’re going to do it, and then when you are sitting at your desk working before you start a new task, spend 10 minutes tidying up your desk. Then go back to your regular work. 

It’s simple and effective. Because you’re already at your desk, you can utilize that momentum of working to put it towards another mini-project/task.

#2 Lesson: Prepare for the Unexpected

While it is impossible to prepare for everything, when you look at the recurring patterns in your life, there are things you can prepare for and make your life more efficient. 

When I worked in the office, I always started my day early to beat traffic both to and from work. For 15 years, I was at my desk; usually, between 7 – 7:30 am. Since I don’t work in corporate anymore, this is not the case anymore! But, because mornings were so tricky for me, I prepared as much as possible the night before.

  • Outfit choice is laid out the night before. If you have animals that may use your clothes as a lovely bed, put your clothes at the front of your closet or in an animal-free zone. 
  • Lunch is prepped and ready to put in my backpack. Remote worker: chop your veggies for a salad, even put it in a container like going to the office. It makes it much easier to eat healthier when you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat! 
  • Any documents, meeting prep, etc., are organized and noted for the next day. This trick saves you time, helps avoid procrastinating about challenging projects, and keeps your head focused on what you need to know and do. 

In our remote working environment, people are struggling to adjust to this “new normal.” Those three prep ideas above help make the remote work easier to cope with ongoing. Just because you’re not commuting doesn’t mean you need to be any less prepared.

While you can wear more comfy pants, have a shower, put on your makeup if you wear it, and put on a decent shirt. Keep your office area tidy and review your day the night before, so you know what your workday looks like the next day. 

#3 Lesson: Focus

There are two symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that affect my ability to work at times: short-term memory loss and brain fog. You know when you have the flu, and your brain feels thick, you can’t find the words, and you can’t understand what is happening around you? That is what it is like with CFS all the time – the only difference is the severity. 

Over the years, I’ve figured out how to manage my symptoms or at least do what I need to do to get through it. It means having focus is essential. Because I don’t know when things will be clear again, I need to focus on what I need to do at that moment and do the best I can. 

This challenge also means sometimes I have to put things off for an hour, or even a day or two, to rest my brain on that area. When you feel scattered or confused about what to do, it leads to procrastination or sloppy work. 

Here, the tricky part is recognizing the difference between procrastination and when you need to take a step back to focus on something else. When you realize this is a time to take a step back, but you will come back to it, then that’s where your focus will help you succeed in completing your projects. 

If you’re struggling to focus on something, take a moment and ask yourself:

  1. Can I do this, but I’m avoiding it? If I’m avoiding it, why am I avoiding it?
  2. If I am legitimately in need of self-care vs. challenging myself today, how can I handle what got me to this state better next time? How can I prepare mentally, emotionally, or physically to reduce the stress levels and exhaustion repercussions?

My upcoming book (with the editor right now) – Step, Step, Pick: How to Use the Power of Momentum to Tackle Tasks, Finish Projects & Fulfill Your Dreams shares these insights in greater detail. 

Keep an eye out for updates on when the book will be available.

Want more inspiration? Join the Step, Step, Pick Facebook group.