Do try this at home. And at work. I wrote a post a while back on How do you Manage Life with Migraine?, about managing our time when migraines interrupt us all the time. Those of you receiving the newsletter got an expanded version of that post in the article "Time Management for Migraineurs (or, how can you get everything done when you can't get anything done?)."
The gist of those pieces was that 1) whatever is on your list, you must learn to accept that you will never get it all done; 2) you need to choose what is most important to you and put those things in your schedule first; and 3) if you keep detailed lists of what you are working on, next steps, what you need to handle if you get sick, and what you need to care for yourself, you will best be able to pick up where you left off. I recommend Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern, as the best system I have come across for managing your time to make sure that you spend it on what is most important to you. And as I mentioned last week, Teri Robert has taken this idea of list-making and planning for Migraines much further in the helpful article MAPP Your Migraine!
All of that said, it occurred to me last week that I had left an important piece out. This may look like a blinding flash of the obvious, but it hit me that a key piece to making this all work is that we can only manage the time we have. Please don't say "Duh" yet. Take a moment to let this sink in.
I read an intriguing post on How to Cope with Pain earlier this month, called Time Management and Pain. What intrigued me was that rather than laying out any nitty-gritty on scheduling and managing time, the article focused on "pacing ourselves and keeping stress to a minimum." In other words, to manage time, we need to manage our own, often over-achieving and denial-ridden, selves!
We can only manage the time we have. I looked back over my Migraine and Wellness calendars for the last 5 years. I'm happy to say that my time spent incapacitated by Migraine and my other illnesses decreased over those 5 years from 27% of the time to 22% of the time. I have focused on increasing that trend, with mixed results. I go up and down; there are months where I'm down more than I'm up. What I have not always remembered is that, however you slice it, I will be down for the count about 25% of the time.
When I look at a beautiful, clear, blank work week in my calendar, I can't say, "Oh, goody, 50-60 working hours to schedule into!" Into that week I need to put all of the things that allow me to maintain my health, to pace myself and keep stress to a minimum. For me that includes exercise every day that I am capable of doing it. It includes 20 minutes of meditation or relaxation practice every day. It includes eating lunch away from my desk - taking breaks that are real breaks. And once I have put all those things in, that help me keep stress down and stay well, I still only have about 75% of the remaining time available for my work!
This means if I set deadlines for myself, I set them taking that percentage of time into consideration. It means when I block out my week, I leave blocks of "not working" time. It means when I come right down to it, I have about 27 hours of productive working time that I can count on in a week. Now I'm not a workplace productivity expert, but I have worked in a lot of places, for others and for myself, and I don't think many people are really productive much more of their time than that.
I have felt such freedom since I have been scheduling this way! My productive time tends to be really productive; I stay focused on what I've set out to accomplish in that time, knowing that I have a reasonable break coming. I can use my "not-working" time for those water-cooler type conversations we tend to have at work, or for actual work if I choose. Of course I can't control that I will schedule my migraines into the hours I have allotted, but there's room in the schedule to rearrange things when I do get sick. And when I am sick I don't worry about what's not getting done. Without the added stress of that worry, I can recover faster.
Since I am self-employed, I know I have more freedom around these issues than some of you who hold down "regular" jobs. But you can find ways to use these ideas. It may be about how you approach your time away from work. It may be about how you pace yourself at work. Please share your thoughts on managing the time you actually have!
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