Operation Crisis Management: How to Work When You’re Sick

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Before you read this post, please note that I am not a medical professional of any kind. You should always check with your healthcare provider before taking any medical advice!

No matter where we come from, what we do for a living and how much money we make, we are all bound to get sick at one point in time or another. I see it often enough where I work- no one is impervious to germs, and if you are, well this post is not for you. (But please let us in on your secret.)

For those of who do get sick from time to time we know what a drag it can be, not just because you’re not feeling physically well, but also because of the havoc it can wreak in your life. The kids still need feeding, the laundry still needs doing and unfortunately the bills still need to get paid so many of us find ourselves still working- in a personal or professional capacity- even through we’re still ill.

It can be tempting to jump right back into things at the thought of all the backlog that awaits your return, but if you’re able to do it, try to take as much time off as you need. Remember that asymptomatic people can sometimes still be contagious, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor about returning to work safely.

If you do get time off, treat it as a gift- an opportunity to pamper yourself and recover. Workaholics take note: taking care of yourself is more about getting rest and plenty of fluids, not catching up on your paperwork. The body needs time to recuperate.

Of course it’s not always possible to take a lot of downtime for yourself when you’re feeling under the weather. If your employer is flexible, you might be able to negotiate a slower return to work, or make up extra hours from home. Even if you have to face reality a little sooner than you’d like, it’s a wise idea to take things slow and be kind to yourself– you’re not going to be the most alert, clever or productive employee when you’re not feeling your best. That’s ok.

If you’re lucky you have caring and supportive friends, family and co-workers that can come to your rescue during your time of need. They may not be able to wave a magic wand to make you feel better, but you’d be surprised how much a helping hand can boost your spirits, even if those helping hands are only doing a load of dishes.

Help people to help you by letting them know about what’s going on with you. Keep the lines of communication open and let everyone know when you expect to be back at work, and how they can help facilitate your transition back at the office. Remember that you’re not the only one that could be inconvenienced by your illness so make sure the appropriate people have the necessary information to cover for you, or continue a project in your absence.

It’s no fun being sick, but there’s no reason it should turn into a complete crisis. If you’re prepared, and you make sure you’re covered at work, the only thing you have to focus on is getting better.

And I really hope you do feel better soon.

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Are you feeling run down or sick all the time? It could be experiencing burnout. Click here for more solutions on how to achieve a healthier work/life balance here.

How to Make Up For Lost Time

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Life happens. Interruptions occur. Things get in the way. Despite our best intentions, most of us have had to deal with backlog in one way or another, but once you have a case of backlog it can start spreading like the plague. The more time you spend trying to catch up on the work that you’ve missed means you’re missing out on even more new work coming your way or worse; you’re so caught up with tasks that need your constant attention that you let your older projects slide until it becomes a bigger problem- you miss a deadline, you let down a colleague, or even lose a client.

The key to dealing with any kind of back log is to figure out a way to deal with your workload as efficiently as possible without getting overwhelmed.

At the beginning of any project, I recommend writing down all the tasks that are involved. The same can be applied to your backlog. Make a list of all your projects that are on your plate.

Working on a project is fruitless if you do not have all the materials or information needed for its completion. Organize all the necessary paperwork, gather your materials, and contact those involved for any additional information you don’t have. It’s better to know exactly what you’re dealing with then discover you’re missing a crucial piece of the puzzle while in the middle of a project. If you’re waiting for other people to get back to you on something, accept that this task is temporarily out of your hands and focus on the things that only you control.

Now that you have a better picture of the things you need to work on, prioritize what you need to work on based on urgency. Is a project or colleague at risk if you don’t deliver something on time? Have you made a commitment to something you cannot back out of? Are you responsible for another person’s health, safety or well-being? All of these tasks need your attention first.

Next, see what you can juggle.  Are there tasks that you can delegate to others, such as personal assistants, subordinates, caregivers or secretaries? Is there a co-worker who can pick up that shift or take on that extra work for you? If there’s anything on your list that no longer holds your interest, has no direct benefit to you personally or professionally, or is a commitment that is bigger than you are willing and/or able to take on, consider deleting it.

Finally, decide what you can put off. This is officially your back-log and can only be processed once your other, more urgent tasks are completed. Even if it still seems enormous, you can forge ahead with the confidence that the most important aspects of your life are under control.

Like any other large project, it’s always best to break it down into small chunks. Try breaking down tasks based on category, or action (like “Meeting Notes to Type” or “Reports to Review”). Make room in your schedule for dedicated back-log processing time, paying attention to energy levels throughout the day. If you find yourself procrastinating, make your processing time a special date with yourself and take your work to a coffee shop, or reward yourself with a small gift or special treat. If you’re having trouble finding the time, try and find hidden chunks of time in your schedule to catch up on reading or other easily portable tasks, such as commuting or waiting for a flight.

Making up for lost time and getting down to dealing with your backlog is a task that’s often overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember I did it, and I was the girl who was accused of running a law firm out of her tiny apartment. I shudder to think about the months I spent dealing with all of that backlog, but the sheer amount of space I gained (and the peace of mind it gave me) was well worth the battle.

KBwB-BFlower-50Want more advice on how to deal with workflow? I make it my life’s work to figure out other people work. I share all my ideas on productivity, scheduling and organizing all in the Busy section of my blog.

Do you need to catch up on your clutter? Find out all about how I purged my apartment here, and all the papers I would not recommend getting rid of here. Cleaning out your closet? I did that too.

Still having trouble breaking down your enormous to-do list? Read my suggestions on how to best tackle it here. Or read this post to find out how I re-organized my to-do lists so I could actually get things done.