Being Productive… Even When Your Sick

Every once in a while, we all get sick. It’s inevitable really. Let’s face it, we are always rushing about, stumbling over our to-do list and it doesn’t matter how organized we are in life, with mental health, exercising and eating, eventually some virus is going to come along and bite us in the arse.

Now the more career driven among us will immediately refuse to take a day off, will soldier on with the tasks at hand and most likely make themselves worse off in the long run. The more practically minded will run for the sofa and a snuggly blanket, wishful wanting to waste the day with a TV binge.

Whether you are the ‘let’s get on with it’ type or eagerly waiting for any old excuse to phone in sick, here are a few tips for being productive, even when you’re sick.

1. Take Stock

Congratulations on wanting to power through your illness and be productive. But before you do anything else, take a good look at yourself. Are you really healthy enough to be going for it full throttle? Do you think you need to go see a doctor before deciding to tackle the to-do list? Be realistic, it is OK to have a day off if you need one. Snuggly blankets and sofas in front of the television are there for a reason.

2. Prep

The aim of any sick day is to make yourself feel better. So if you insist on working today, at least bend a few of the rules. If you can get away with dressing down, do it. Comfort is more important today as you probably already look like a hot mess with a runny nose. Also if you can work remotely from home, this is a massive bonus; generally accomplished by taking a sick day but if you can get away with not going into the office and still getting paid, kudos to you.

Now make sure you have everything on hand for your personal comfort and wellness. These things might include everything from medication, tissues, a hot beverage to the gross and sadly sometimes necessary bucket next to the bed.

Then and only then can you focus on other things. Remember, today you need to put you first.

3. Make a little list

Whilst this is a good practice for having a productive day in general, it is imperative when trying to get things done when you are sick. Depending on what you have and how sick you are, may result in various levels of cotton headedness and fatigue, so it’s important to get things written down now so you’re not kicking yourself later.

Even if all you do today is get comfy with a note pad and pen prior to watching TV and taking a nap, remember this – You have still been more productive than if you have spent the whole day in bed. Give yourself a break, after all, you are poorly.

4. Start slow

Rest is essential, so for goodness sake do not over do it. There is little point because you just won’t get better and that achieves nothing. Instead, do one small thing at a time.

Take a good look at the list you made and look for the more gentle tasks. Something may seem urgent and make you want to run to do it, but right now that is unnecessary stress. Ignore it. Most likely it can wait until tomorrow.

What I mean by gentle tasks are ones that do not use overly large amounts of physical or mental energy. For instance, wiping over the dining table with a cloth and some polish is minimal physical exertion, but cleaning the kitchen from top to bottom, including putting out all the cupboards and re-organising takes a bit too much effort.

The same goes for mental tasks. Writing a short personal e-mail to a friend means that you will relatively enjoy the task and it won’t take too much out of you. It could even aid in making you feel better. But trying to produce a 20,000-word budget report on NASA shuttle fuel costs is going to be far too taxing to make for a restful exercise.

5. Take more breaks

Another tried and true productivity method is to take breaks. But remember, when you are sick you use more of your energy much more quickly, as your body tries to fight off whatever ails you. Give it some support by taking more breaks than normal. Whilst this helps avoid the ‘vegetating in bed’ all day state that a productive person abhors, it does also mean that you are not going to the other extreme of working yourself into exhaustion. It is true that lying about constantly whilst you are sick can make you feel worse, but having regular rest periods is also of major import in your recovery.

Do yourself a favor and take a break…Just don’t have a Kit Kat. Chicken broth. Always chicken broth when you’re sick.

So anyway, here are my top five tips to having a productive day, even when you’re sick. Let me know in the comments below how you handle sick days and whether you’re one to stay at home or to power through.


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