Having a Productive Day With Less Usable Hours

I saw a post on Instagram not too long ago discussing how many chronically ill individuals have less usable hours in a day than those who are able-bodied and healthy. I never really looked at it through this lens before but seeing it not only made sense to my own circumstances, but also reassured me that there were others out there trying to make the best of their days with what usable hours they did have, no matter how little.

Determining our usable hours

First things first: what are usable hours? Well, they are the hours in your day in which you have the energy to be productive. For everyone that may mean something different. For able-bodied individuals, it’s usually anywhere between 10-12 hours. They can work a 9-5 job, go home and cook, maybe do some tidying up and hang out with some friends as well before bed.

For those of us who are chronically ill, it really depends on your own personal limitations. With my circumstances, I wake up around 10 or 11AM, spend about an hour or two slowly working through my morning routine, and then have to pace myself throughout the middle of the day to try and get things done. Anytime after dinner I am usually left entirely burnt out and have to be done for the day. This leaves me with about four usable hours, not including the amount of breaks I have to take in that period of time.

Remember that it’s okay if your day looks different than others

It took me some time to realize that not only are my usable hours going to look different that most individuals, but that it is entirely okay given what I am going through as well. It’s not realistic to push myself to be productive for 10-12 hours when I am struggling with chronic pain and chronic fatigue, which incredibly dictates how I spend my energy on a day-to-day basis.

Most people don’t have the weight of that on top of their daily responsibilities-—imagine that! So of course our days will look different than theirs. We need more rest than the average person, so it only makes sense that the amount of usable hours in a day will decrease. Which brings me to my final point.

Pacing our productivity to have a more “successful” day

You don’t have to work 10 hours straight to have a successful day. Those of us who struggle with our health know all too well that in order to even survive the day ahead, we need to pace ourselves. Out of my four usable hours, I have to spend about an hour in total (spread out into small increments throughout that time) resting in between. I’ll work for a small period of time, then take a break. I’ll switch loads of laundry, then take another break. I’ll write half of an article, then take a break again.

It may not feel the most productive in the present moment, but when you pace yourself this way to help your body get through what needs to get done, or what you can manage, by the end of the day you can look back and see all that you accomplished without pushing yourself into burnout!

Just remember that you define what success means to you. If you feel good about your day, that’s really all that matters.

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