8 Productivity Tips When You Have A Chronic Illness

There is a desk that has a grey top and white beams for support. On top of the desk is an iMac, a white keyboard and white mouse and underneath both of these is a big black mouse mat. There is a faux plant on the right handsome corner of the desk that has a polka dot coaster and on the left hand side is a grey lamp which has a grey notebook and black pen next to it. Next to the desk is a grey desk chair which has a grey pillow.

Photo by James McDonald on Unsplash

Chronic illness can be hard on your mind, body, relationships, but also on your productivity levels. There may have been a time when you could go to school or college, work a part-time job, go to the gym, do chores and be social with your family and friends; however, now you may be lucky enough to have enough energy to make yourself dinner.

You wake up from sleeping and yet you feel like you have not slept at all. You have got a lot of work to do and you are thinking about how you are going to get all your tasks done when you can barely get out bed! Being productive is challenging enough without any brain fog or other symptoms that come with your chronic illness.

I know first-hand what it is like to live with a chronic illness; due to an accident at work, my whole life has changed. You feel weak and that you are not measuring up is probably an understatement! Hopefully, this post is going to show you how you can be productive even with your chronic illness, you can do it; you must never think otherwise.

I have Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Syndrome due to my workplace accident. I understand that not one chronic illness is more difficult to live with than another. Whichever way you look at it, a chronic illness is just that… a chronic illness and learning how you can live with it and be productive is a massive physical, mental and emotional challenge.

I know what it is like to look around and see others achieving and living their lives and feel like I am falling behind. I know what it feels like to want to make a difference in your life and the lives of your loved ones, but sometimes you feel like a burden. You are not alone in those feelings. On a positive note, I have been trying to take charge and not allow the difficulties and challenges that my chronic illness has given me, dictate my life and what I can achieve and neither can you.

Here are some tips which you can use to enable yourself to have as productive a day as possible:

1. Focus On One Goal At A Time

For some, having multiple goals is something that they thrive upon and they are able to focus on several at one time. You may remember a time when you too could do this; however, when you have a chronic illness, this can be completely overwhelming. You can start by setting yourself smaller goals at first and then progress to bigger goals. For example, start with putting your clothes away, make your bed, or maybe just organise a surface or drawer in your home that you have been meaning to do for some time. No matter what your goal is just make one and go from there.

2. Give Yourself Grace

In today’s society, everyone’s accomplishments and achievements are right in your face. But what you have to remember is that’s the end of their accomplishment. You cannot compare your beginning to their middle or end. Having a chronic illness means that, it is going to take you longer to reach your goals, than someone who doesn’t. This is not telling you that you cannot do something; you have to give yourself grace that it may take a little longer. The sooner that you accept it, the sooner you will give yourself the time and space that you need, so that you can move forward.

On a white work top is a white keyboard at the top of the picture. There is 3 notebooks, the notebook on the top is open with white lined pages. Next to the notebooks is a black pen and a white ruler.Photo by STIL on Unsplash

3. Follow Your Body Clock

With a chronic illness, there can be so many struggles and a change in your body clock is another aspect that you have to adjust to. Setting your alarm for 6am, to spring out of bed and start your day may be no longer feasible. You have to work out when is the best time to work, to rest, to eat and so on. You have to work with your body clock rather than against it. Allocate your most important tasks to when you have most energy. You do not want to set yourself up for failure by pushing yourself with tasks at times that will make them too difficult to complete.

4. Break Down Bigger Tasks

Tackling bigger tasks can be incredibly daunting especially on your bad days, so breaking them down into manageable chunks can make them more achievable. Learning to do this can help you to feel more in control and have a feeling of dread; for example, when you have more physical tasks to complete. You may need to clean the whole house, but by breaking it down into certain rooms or an area of a room each day can help you manage the seemingly overwhelming task. Using a ‘To Do’ List of steps, creating smaller tasks and checking them off will make you feel like you’ve had lots of wins!

5. Relieve Stress And Relax

Stress weakens your body and so you are more likely to feel Fibromyalgia symptoms when your body is under stress. It is important that you take time in the evenings (or when you feel the need) to relax; maybe run a bath or take a nap. Relaxing throughout a task is a great way to stop it becoming too taxing; you could sit down whilst folding laundry. It may take a little longer, but the main thing that you need to focus on is that you achieved your goal.

6. Identify What Your Triggers Are

What are your greatest challenges physically and mentally? What causes you the most struggles? Once you have answered these questions, you can list and plan the tasks that will be manageable for your better days and smaller, less demanding tasks for the days when you may be in the most pain, or have the worst brain fog.

There is a woman in a black t-shirt who is sat at a table with a clear mud of water. She has a notebook open and is holding a pen.Photo by STIL on Unsplash

7. Know When Your Most Time Is And Take Advantage

Knowing when you’re most focused means that you can accomplish the tasks that require the most physical and/or mental energy. You do not need to start completing tasks from the moment that you wake up. You play to your strengths; if you find that you are most productive in the evening, plan the most focus-orientated tasks for this time.

You should take it step-by-step and see which tasks you can handle when you are not feeling your best in order to learn what you can handle on your worst days. This means that on these days, you can still achieve a task or several smaller tasks and cross them off your list, to gain a sense of satisfaction.

8. Create The Right Environment  

When you are working on admin tasks, or maybe you work from home, creating the ideal environment is essential. Limit your distractions in order to avoid procrastination. You want to make sure that the temperature is right because if it’s too cold, it could make your aches and pain worse. If it’s too hot, you could end up dozing off!

Living with 2 chronic illnesses means that I don’t have to spend my days on the sofa or in bed, watching T.V. I want to achieve my goals, be productive and not let my illnesses defeat me or define my life.

These suggestions are not going to cure your chronic illness, but they will help you to feel better about yourself because you will be completing tasks and feeling productive. When you feel better about yourself, it can improve your mood which means that you will have better days. Believe it… you can be productive, you can achieve and you can succeed.

Do you have a chronic illness or know someone that has? What tips would you suggest to help be productive? I’d love to hear in the comments.

71 thoughts on “8 Productivity Tips When You Have A Chronic Illness

  1. Wonderful post. Knowing what your triggers are is huge. Due to my genetic arthritis I used to constantly have lower back and hip pain but I switched my routine to accomodate and help relieve it. It really did make a difference in my life. I still have pain but it is much improved. I am sorry you have to deal with Fribro but it looks like you do your best to relieve it. This advice is stellar!

  2. This is an amazing post, Lauren. Productivity tips are flying around everywhere but it’s important to shed light on those who do have chronic illnesses who might have to take a different approach. I’m sure a lot of people will find this extremely helpful ! x

  3. Thanks for the reminders. Are they still triggers if they are chronic? I am finding that flareups are frequent when I am suffering from COVID exhaustion.

  4. honestly these are excellent tips for anybody trying to optimize productivity. i will definitely be saving this page to refer back to it, thanks for writing this!

  5. This was an amazing read, Lauren! I didn’t have any experience with chronic illness personally, but I did with my mum and I know she struggled because of chronic pain. Breaking down bigger things and also getting help is the one that helped more. I am sure this post will be very helpful to everyone, thank you for sharing x

  6. Giving yourself grace and relieving stress are THE most important things for me when it comes to productivity because of my chronic illness. I also have to realize that my day might not look like someone else’s and that’s okay. I don’t need to play a comparison game just because I can’t jump out of bed at the crack of dawn and go for a jog before starting my work – most days I wake up but stay in bed for several hours to begin working before even getting up to accomplish normal tasks like eating breakfast or showering. Doesn’t mean I’m not productive. Thank you SO much for this post. It makes me feel less alone!

  7. I can’t imagine how difficult living with chronic illness must be. Being productive can be difficult enough without that additional factor.

    Brilliant advice with great tips for anyone looking to be more productive but especially with chronic illness x x x

  8. This was a great post. I can only imagine how hard it must be to get through a work day with a chronic illness and these tips sound really good to help people get through the day x

  9. This is a great post! I can’t imagine having to live and work with a chronic illness.. but as someone who’s just struggling mentally with lockdown, making a to do list of big and small tasks has really helped me! Means you know what you’ve got to do, but by ticking off something small (like load the dishwasher) makes you eel like you’ve achieved something!

    Katie | katieemmabeauty.com

  10. I love that you have found ways to be productive and active and positive. I feel overwhelmed sometimes on a normal basis, so making to-do lists and breaking down small goals into step-by-steps is my go-to for making something manageable, especially when confronted with something out of the blue.
    Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

  11. Great tips! I too have fibromyalgia with a few other health ailments. I struggle to work so right now I’m only working 12 hours a week. It’s all I can really do right now. I come home in pain but not nearly as much as if I worked more hours.

    I love all your tips! Knowing your triggers is a really great tip.

  12. Love this post. I have Joint Hypermobility Syndrome and POTS and most days are a struggle. It’s hard to accept at times but it definitely makes things easier when you follow tips like these.

  13. I love this. I don’t have a chronic illness but so many of these points I relate to from where both my anxiety and depression flare up and that makes it really hard to see the wood for the trees, so to speak. These are some great tips and really practical advice, especially when it comes to knowing what suits you best. Great post!

  14. Aw, wow! Thank you for sharing this! I hate the hustle 24/7 culture thats in the air right now. It sucks that people in general are not more forgiving to themselves. I’m glad that you found what works for you and these tips will be really helpful to people who have a chronic illness. Thank you for sharing xx


  15. This is such a thoughtful and helpful post. A few of my loved ones have chronic illnesses and as an outsider looking in I just want to say “Be kind to yourself!”. Every day is a new day and often there are people around you who are also willing to help. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Great, useful tips.

    I think trying not to get worked up if you can’t do something because of fatigue or pain at that moment is helpful. Things can always be done another time. If you need to rest then rest.

  17. I find the perfectionism creates so much stress that I struggle to focus and believe I can’t manage a certain output and this is just slowing my productivity down. I guess it’s self loathing.

  18. I’m very fortunate not to have a chronic illness but this was a great insight into how hard it is for those who do. I think the giving yourself grace and recognising your triggers are my most valuable takeaways. Thank you for sharing this, Lauren xx

  19. You are so inspiring Lauren! I have no personal experience on chronic illness so your post helps me to see other people’s situation better. Thank you so much for sharing this xx

    1. I didn’t before and I found it hard to understand. But now I am in this position I have a new found understanding for people in my position or worst. Thank you for your kind comments Jenni xx

  20. Thank you for this post. Very relatable and a great reminder that I am being way too harsh on myself which, ironically, is making me even less productive! I would love to network with fellow chronic illness sufferers as I believe it’s really helpful to share points about how we cope daily!

  21. I can’t imagine having to go to school or work with a chronic illness. I salute you and everyone who’s going through the same thing. I so love your productivity tips — everything is on point! I agree that you should know which time or which routine works best for you, not for what everybody is doing. Taking care of yourself should be your priority and you shouldn’t be in a hurry all the time. Work on your pace. And yes, as you said, don’t forget to celebrate your achievements. That’s super important for self-esteem. Thank you so much for sharing!


  22. I have a disability rather than a chronic illness but I found these tips really relatable and useful, especially the reminder to give ourselves grace. Thank you for sharing!!

  23. This is such a insightful post Lauren! First, I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. Although I do not have a chronic illness I certainly have many people in my life that do and your suggestions are extremely helpful. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Your points about time are so on target. Work with your body’s clock and be aware of your best times so you can take advantage of them wisely. And save the tasks that don’t require your maximum for the times when you are feeling as well. Great post! I shared it.

  25. Fantastic post – as someone who also lived with 2 chronic illnesses this really resonated with me! For myself, giving myself grace took a lot of time after diagnoses and some days I’m still not great at this. For myself, I find small adjustments such as doing admin tasks from the couch if it’s a bad pain day to help with still keeping me going but trying to find relief at the same time. I also try not to overfill my days I’m feeling well, it’s important to have balance with not overdoing it. Thanks for this – love your content!

  26. This is a great and helpful post. I suffer from depression and sometimes getting work done on my blog feels really hard to do. I have started to do some of the things you have suggested, like breaking my goals down into smaller goals to make things easier on myself.

  27. OK, yes
    I have MS and Endo and the fatigue is something else, and I can be so unforgiving.
    Something that helps me is writing down everything I’ve done in a day as I do it – then I can look back and say I DID THAT and I can notice patterns more easily. Like, look your last hour you didn’t get much done, maybe take a break and refresh?
    Creating the right environment definitely helps. If I get too hot I basically stop working, all of my symptoms get so much worse and the brain fog is like pea soup. I have cool pads, cooling towels, misting fans, and ice lollies in the freezer.
    Cora | https://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/

    1. Oh bless you. I am glad you were able to relate, it is always comforting to know you are not alone. It is good you have all those supplies for when that happens. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  28. Breaking down goals into smaller manageable steps is always a great idea, and while you’re at it, make sure your goal is a SMART goal. My body clocks an absolute mess, I really need to sort out a routine so I can sort out my body clock

  29. Wow! Thank you for this post!
    I found so many useful tips here. My kids exhaust me to the point of perpetual brain-fog, and while it’s no chronic illness and certainly not comparable to what you experience daily, I am at the point of needing tips and hacks to maximise productivity when I do finally get to my desk!
    Thanks for sharing!

  30. Amazing post! Thank you for sharing! This is so inspiring and will be so helpful to lots of people! Well done for trying to be productive despite your chronic illnesses!

  31. I can’t imagine living with a chronic illness. It’s amazing your still striving forward especially with two chronic illness. Great advice! These tips will be really helpful to someone dealing with similar issues.

  32. These are such great ideas! As someone who has dealt with chronic illness for over 10 years, I am no stranger to dealing with pain & fatigue at work, but I am still finding ways to be more productive. Thank you for sharing!

    1. I am still trying to balance everything and I have an appointment with the pain clinic to help also. It is great you are still able to work. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  33. I have had chronic pain from an auto accident many years ago. Definitely, I would advise to outsource or delegate anything that you don’t like doing or aren’t very good at doing.

  34. Great tips! I’m horrible with comparing myself to my sister, who is healthy. I look at what she gets done in a day and just feel defeated. I know I need to stop! Than you for the reminder!

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