What Breast Cancer Has Taught Me About Productivity
There are myriad lessons I’ve learned as a breast cancer survivor (thriver). The main life lesson is, “you are not guaranteed a tomorrow.” I was diagnosed less than a month before my 50th birthday and while I didn’t have the invincibility of a teenager, I certainly never imagined I’d be fighting for my life against breast cancer. Fight, I did. Survive I will. Sounds a little Dr. Seuss-y, but it’s true.
When you’re staring physically altering surgery you imagine you can handle it. After all, getting rid of the cells that are trying to kill you is the most important thing, right? Well, yes. But, the emotional scars that come from fear and that manifest every time you are feeling low energy and get a glimpse of your scars are a different animal. There are days when I just want to crawl into bed. It’s rare that I wallow, but then I do work from home alone with my pets so there are days when instead of eating lunch, I have a crying jag. I wallow, wipe away my tears and get back to work. I remind myself I was given a second chance and need to be grateful for all of the moments I’ve been given.
I heard on the radio the other day, “the best moment of your life is the moment you’re in right now.” How true is that?
What Breast Cancer Has Taught Me About Productivity
Don’t work with clients who drain you. It’s not always easy to jettison a client. I still have those days when I wonder if I should have kept working with Client X even though she was impossible to please and drained my energy. Those moments are rare when I look at my current client roster and realize I am working with clients who value me and whose work I believe in. There is enough in life to drain your energy, but if you face every day knowing you have to interact with a client who does that, your outlook will suffer.
Build in time off. Prior to my breast cancer diagnosis I worked seven days a week, sometimes up to eighteen hours a day. Was I productive all of that time? I doubt it. Was I sitting in front of the computer all of that time? Yes. My health suffered. My family relationships suffered. Did my clients truly need access to me 24/7? No. Sure, if their websites crashed, then I should be on it, but if they simply wanted to discuss strategy or a new blog post idea, that could wait until my business hours. Being always available and answering emails at 2 o’clock in the morning if I woke up, was setting up unrealistic expectations. Now I schedule phone calls during my set office hours. I don’t answer emails after 7 o’clock at night.
I also do not schedule back to back meetings and phone calls and time-blocked tasks. I schedule in time to take the dogs for a walk. I schedule in a lunch break that will get me away from the computer. I also schedule weekends off. It’s rare that you will find me working on a Saturday. I will put in a couple hours on a Sunday morning if necessary, but for the most part, my weekends are my own.
Your health matters. As a work-from-home writer my life consists of sitting at my desk creating copy. I’m sure it’s no secret that sitting leads to obesity and death. That’s an eye opener for sure. After having been diagnosed with pre-diabetes I knew I needed to do something and getting out for long walks to get in 10,000 steps a day just wasn’t going to happen. I invested in a treadmill and, if nothing else, I walk one mile after every meal. Exercise is not something I enjoy. I dread the five minutes it takes me to do that mile. I have never experienced the “high” that others who exercise say they get. It is a slog through quicksand and I have to force myself to do it. I keep telling myself that my health will improve and I’ll feel better. Well, hasn’t worked yet. I imagine I will always despise the treadmill, but it’s something I have to do so I do it.
Know your most productive times. We all have a unique, internal rhythm. Knowing your rhythm helps you determine when you’re operating at your highest efficiency. My best time of the day is early in the morning, sometimes before the sun comes up. I am an early to bed, early to rise person. Working when the house is quiet and dark is optimal for me. I tackle my most creative tasks or the task I have been dreading the most during my peak hours. By afternoon, usually around 3 o’clock, I get in a slump. I don’t fight it by drinking coffee. I know that is the time of day when I can focus on cleaning up my desk, or filing paperwork or planning out my bigger projects. If I had to be creative at 3 o’clock, I’d be in trouble. Afternoons are also when I prefer to do my client calls and meetings. Why? Because my day is almost over, I have made the best use of my creative early morning time and doing early morning phone calls takes me out of my creative flow. Determine when you are operating at your best. Your “morning” might be the afternoon. If you’re a night owl, don’t fight it; embrace your unique rhythm and plan your day around that time.
Don’t wait for a health issue to arise before you take control of your day. What are your stumbling blocks to productivity? Do you struggle to find time to “do it all?” Do you need to create content for your business, but don’t have the time? If you answered “yes” send me an email and let’s set up a Make It Happen session! Robbi AT AllWordsMatter DOT com