Computer, cup of coffee, and paper To-Do list on a white table with text overlay: Make Your To-Do List Fibro-Friendly

Make Your To-Do List Fibro-Friendly

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!

Blessings,

~Terri

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Cup of coffee, To-Do list and pen on a tan placemat with text overlay: Make Your To-Do List Fibro-Friendly

21 comments

  1. thank you so very much Terri! It is hard to see people who deep clean their whole house and I am still struggling to feed 6 people daily and keep the laundry and dishes done 🙂 Thank you for always showing us that we need to be realistic with ourselves and that doing less is ok too!
    I do use lists on most days and try not to put too many things on it or I feel defeated at the end of the day when I ‘didn’t do enough’
    I hope you and yours are well………Another great post Terri! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Wendi! It’s hard not to compare what we’re doing with what others are doing when our SM feeds are full of people talking about how much they’ve accomplished while on lockdown. I think it’s amazing that you’re feeding six people every day AND keeping the dishes and laundry done! I’m like you – I don’t put a lot of things on the list. As you said, if we put too many things on there it’s easy to feel defeated if we don’t accomplish them all. We’re doing well here. Our COVID-19 cases doubled in our city overnight, so we’re not leaving the house, even to pick up groceries, right now. I hope you and your family are doing well sweet friend. Blessings to you!

      1. Oh NO! How very scary to have the numbers double overnight. I am not sure where you are but oh my, I wouln’t leave either. It is just not worth it.

        Thank you for your kind words. I am keeping up with dishes by using a dishwasher and once it is emptied there is another full load waiting to go…….I am not sure if I will ever have an empty sink again! 🙂 And of course, laundry is never done.
        Please take care of yourself and thank you again for always putting my mind in the right perspective……..I sure do appreciate you. May God bless you and yours.

      2. I’m glad I could help, dear friend. Sometimes we just need to hear something from someone else…. Although our numbers have doubled, they’re still pretty low. Just praying we’re able to keep them that way by staying away from each other…. Blessings to you!

  2. This post is so helpful! I love lists and have them all over the place. An ongoing master list is such a good idea. I’m going to start that tomorrow morning.

    1. Michelle, I’m so sorry for the delay in answering your comment…. Somehow it ended up in my spam folder. I don’t understand what happens with WP sometimes… I’m a huge list person too – maybe because I can’t remember much without writing things down ha ha. I hope you were able to get a good Master Task List started. Sending hugs your way. Stay safe and well sweet friend!

  3. You get this spot on with how things need to be personalised and customised to our abilities, what works for us an individuals, etc. It’s not one size fits all. And you’re not alone with the spring cleaning. I’ve come to the realisation it may just be a continual work in progress! But it also means it’s something to work on for a sense of achievement, as long as we don’t let it frustrate and disappoint us, which is easier said than done sometimes. Another fab post. Stay safe, Terri xx

    1. I agree with you Caz – it’s good to have something to work on to give us that sense of achievement. I think the key is to focus more on the process, not the results, to keep us from becoming discouraged. I’ve learned to celebrate the small wins – anything that moves the process forward is worth celebrating in my opinion.😊 You stay safe as well, sweet friend! Hugs!

  4. Lots of great advice here! I am a bit fanatical about organization & planning and have had to adjust my approach – and my expectations – with chronic illness, just as you suggest here! I keep a running list in a notebook of everything that needs to be done – this is a bucket list of every single thing so when something pops into my mind, I put it on the list and won’t lose it. It helps to prevent having Post-Its stuck all over the place! Then, as you suggest, each week, a make a list for the week, starring the urgent/must-do items. I find it helpful to divide my list into categories: errands, phone calls, writing, online, and home – that way, I can, for instance, get all the errands done at once or run down the list of phone calls.

    Very good advice on keeping things loose! I had a bad “crash” day this week when I could not do anything – it helps to know I can set it all aside when I need to.

    Great post – will be sharing it!

    Sue

    Living with ME/CFS

  5. I’m a compulsive list maker, and it’s been a real challenge to adjust my expectations to enable me to manage those days – and more – when I’m just too fatigued or in too much pain to do anything more than unload the dishwasher and check the bank balance. As you say, we need to give ourselves a little more grace and run our own race rather than everybody else’s. I find that bit easier said than done though!

    1. I know what you mean about it being easier said than done, Captain. It’s a continuing struggle for me too. The longer I live with this, though, the easier it becomes. Learning to accept that I need to listen to my body and not beat myself up has really made a huge difference for me. Blessings to you!

  6. Very practical and realistic tips Terri. I know for sure that time blocking certainly wouldn’t work for me because of the unpredictability of fatigue but I always have a list and I always prioritise. After that it’s pot luck!

    1. Thanks for sharing Marie! I know what you mean about the time blocking — I tried it and it just didn’t work. Our schedules really are at the mercy of our symptoms, aren’t they? At least with our list and prioritization we can work around the limitations our bodies impose on us. Hope you’re staying safe and well sweet friend. Sending hugs!

      1. You’re correct Terri, we can work around the limitations as best we can. We are doing well thanks, grateful for our rural lifestyle. How are you coping? Stay safe. Xx

      2. We’re doing well thanks. We’ve been staying at home other than running out for groceries. Even with that, I’ve been ordering online and we just go pick them up with curbside pickup. We did go to the garden shop to pick up our vegetable plants this morning, but we went EARLY so there were only three other people there. We just ran in, got what we needed, and got out. Continue to stay safe!

      3. Very wise Terri, I’m glad you are being careful. We shop once every 2nd week, freeze milk and bread, managing fine! If more would stay home we might see this end sooner rather than later. Xx

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