I read an intriguing post on How to Cope with Pain earlier this month, called Time Management and Pain. What intrigued me was that rather than laying out any nitty-gritty on scheduling and managing time, the article focused on “pacing ourselves and keeping stress to a minimum.” In other words, to manage time, we need to manage our own, often over-achieving and denial-ridden, selves!

We can only manage the time we have. I looked back over my Migraine and Wellness calendars for the last 5 years. I’m happy to say that my time spent incapacitated by Migraine and my other illnesses decreased over those 5 years from 27% of the time to 22% of the time. I have focused on increasing that trend, with mixed results. I go up and down; there are months where I’m down more than I’m up. What I have not always remembered is that, however you slice it, I will be down for the count about 25% of the time.

When I look at a beautiful, clear, blank work week in my calendar, I can’t say, “Oh, goody, 50-60 working hours to schedule into!” Into that week I need to put all of the things that allow me to maintain my health, to pace myself and keep stress to a minimum. For me that includes exercise every day that I am capable of doing it. It includes 20 minutes of meditation or relaxation practice every day. It includes eating lunch away from my desk - taking breaks that are real breaks. And once I have put all those things in, that help me keep stress down and stay well, I still only have about 75% of the remaining time available for my work!

This means if I set deadlines for myself, I set them taking that percentage of time into consideration. It means when I block out my week, I leave blocks of “not working” time. It means when I come right down to it, I have about 27 hours of productive working time that I can count on in a week. Now I’m not a workplace productivity expert, but I have worked in a lot of places, for others and for myself, and I don’t think many people are really productive much more of their time than that.

I have felt such freedom since I have been scheduling this way! My productive time tends to be really productive; I stay focused on what I’ve set out to accomplish in that time, knowing that I have a reasonable break coming. I can use my “not-working” time for those water-cooler type conversations we tend to have at work, or for actual work if I choose. Of course I can’t control that I will schedule my migraines into the hours I have allotted, but there’s room in the schedule to rearrange things when I do get sick. And when I am sick I don’t worry about what’s not getting done. Without the added stress of
that worry, I can recover faster.

Since I am self-employed, I know I have more freedom around these issues than some of you who hold down “regular” jobs. But you can find ways to use these ideas. It may be about how you approach your time away from work. It may be about how you pace yourself at work. Please share your thoughts on managing the time you actually have!

- Megan

Author's Bio: 

Megan Oltman is a migraineur, an entrepreneur, and a Migraine Management Coach, helping migraineurs and people with chronic illness manage their lives, keep working, start and maintain businesses, and live purposeful lives. She also practices as a professional divorce mediator. Over the years, she's been a practicing attorney, a free-lance writer, and a business coach and advisor. Megan has a free Migraine management course, The Six Keys to Manage your Migraines and Take Back your Life, available at takebackyourlifefrommigraine.com. Her writings on Migraine and more tools for managing life with Migraine can be found at freemybrain.com.