My house should be spotless by now. After all, we’ve barely left the house in the last few weeks. Guess what – it’s not. I see so many posts about how much people are getting done around the house right now, and quite frankly, it makes me a little envious.
As much as I would love to get all my Spring Cleaning done in just a week or two, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that with fibromyalgia, that’s just not realistic.
As I talked about in Don’t Stress the Mess, when we live with fibromyalgia or other chronic illness, just trying to get our usual household chores done can feel daunting. When you throw in those “extra” chores that you have to do periodically, it can become overwhelming.
Whether it’s household chores or other things we want to get done, having a to-do list that works for us instead of against us can keep us from becoming discouraged.
Rather than having unreasonable expectations of ourselves, maybe we just need to take a look at our to-do lists and make them more Fibro-friendly.
So what does that look like? It’s going to look different for every person, because each of us has unique needs when it comes to getting things done.
For most of us with fibromyalgia (and many other chronic illnesses) pacing is vital, which means the whole do ten or twelve things in one day thing probably won’t work for us. We may also need to tweak the traditional wisdom around scheduling and to-do lists.
Ways To Make Our To-Do List More Fibro-Friendly
Make a Master Task List.
What I’m talking about here is a list of all the things we want to get done. There’s no time limit on this list; it’s just a running list of anything that needs to be done sooner or later. It can be something as simple as “clean out the pantry” or as involved as “get replacement windows installed.” Obviously I’m not going to replace the windows, but I would need to get estimates, budget for them, and schedule the work.
Having this list helps us keep the things we need to do in the front of our minds, especially when the dreaded Fibro Fog sets in.
Prioritize your tasks.
If we don’t consciously prioritize our tasks, we can spend a lot of time doing things that aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things.
We start this process by determining everything we want to get done for the week ahead. Once we have that overall list, we need to take a closer look at it.
What do we need to do most? What are the things that we absolutely have to do? These are the things that keep us as healthy as possible, our households running smoothly, our finances in order, etc..
Of course, we give those top priority on our to-do lists. These are our must-do items.
Make at least a loose plan for the week.
We increase our chances of getting things done when we have a plan. The only problem with that is that our symptoms don’t care what we have planned, and love to throw a monkey wrench into things sometimes. That’s why I make a plan, but I keep it loose.
I try to do this on Fridays, which gives me time to really think through what I need to do during the following week and spread all the tasks out across the week.
I make sure I leave plenty of ‘blank space’ on my calendar for those times I just can’t get things done. That way, if I need to take a recovery day and do absolutely nothing, I don’t feel guilty about it.
When we plan our days but keep them loose, we ensure we can get things done without the pressure.
Break tasks into small chunks.
Sometimes when we have a large task on our list, thinking about trying to get it done can throw us into ‘analysis paralysis.’ We start thinking about how long it’s going to take, how much energy we’ll have to expend, how much pain we’ll be in by the time we finish….. We get into a never-ending loop.
Rather than trying to do it all at once, we can do one small part of it at a time. For example, my pantry is a hot mess right now. Rather than trying to do it all in one day, I’m cleaning one shelf per day. It may take a while to finish it, but I’ll get it done without causing a flare.
Determine what type of scheduling works for you.
Many time management courses teach us time blocking to make sure we get everything done. The idea is that we just block out certain times during the day to do certain things, and stick to that schedule.
It’s a brilliant concept, but it just doesn’t work for me.
We each have to determine what type of scheduling works best for us. Does a more rigid schedule work for you, or does a schedule with more ‘wiggle room’ work better?
We just need to figure out how we work best, and what type of scheduling fits our needs.
I’ve found that tightly scheduling my time doesn’t work for me. Instead, I just write down the tasks I want to get done on a particular day without a time assigned to it. Planning more loosely helps me get things done without making me feel like a failure if I can’t stick to my schedule.
Make your daily plan fit your pain and energy levels.
One of the things that can help us the most here is to limit how many tasks we schedule in a day. Rather than trying to do everything in one day, we can just decide what our top three ‘must-do’s’ are and work to get those done.
Another thing that can be helpful is to move things around to fit our energy levels. For instance, if I’m having a low-energy day, I may not be able to clean that pantry shelf I planned to clean, but I can work on my continuing education course or something else that doesn’t require a lot of energy.
Having a to-do list can help us stay focused and get things done, but we need to make it work for us. A more Fibro-Friendly to-do list can set us up for success and keep us from becoming discouraged.
A last word about our to-do lists though – remember that they’re not set in stone. They’re just a guide. So what if we don’t get everything done? It’ll still be there tomorrow. Let’s give ourselves some grace!
Do you use a to-do list? What helps you get things done? Please share!