Time management can be challenge for everyone, let alone people who suffer chronic pain. However, when you’re a fibromyalgia sufferer, it’s going to be even more important to be able to manage your time effectively given the limitations imposed on you by your condition. If you weren’t suffering from fibromyalgia, you might be able to get by with the standard “To Do List” or a Day-Timer. However, people with FMS need to be both more flexible and more deliberate with their scheduling.
This is because a “normal” person can use time like a commodity. It’s a staple that if used effectively, is plentiful enough for us to accomplish what we want. However, for a person with FMS, time is a luxury. This means that it can’t be spent as if there’s an abundance of it, and we just need to use it properly. You absolutely don’t have as much of it as you need, so the time that you do have will need to be used effectively. The first and most important step is to make sure that you write everything down.
First, writing things down make them feel official, and more likely that you’ll prioritize them appropriately so you can get them done. Start a Task Notebook to write down every task that you think of. Then have a Daily Task list of ten items that you want to accomplish that day. Only two of these two tasks should be difficult, and the rest should be things that you can feel confident about getting done. Finally, you’ll need to start an agenda as well, so that you can schedule and keep track of the details of how you’ll get these things done.
This is just the amount of writing and keeping track that everyone—including people who are completely healthy—need to do to keep organized. In addition to this, many people with FMS suffer from a sort of “brain fog” and so will have difficulty remembering things. Once a thing is written down, you aren’t chancing that it’ll get lost in the fog. If it’s a major priority or even if it’s not, it’s best to get it written down, so it won’t get forgotten.
Your Tasks Notebook will also provide you with the major benefit of all that writing. It also give you a place to cross them off, which is a very satisfying feeling.
Whatever style of notebook you choose for your tasks notebook should be something that you can keep close as you go through the day. When you think of something you want to get done, the last thing you want is to have to go searching for it.
When you complete an item, cross it off in your agenda. This also includes things that you delegated to someone else. They still got done, and you were an integral part of it happening. From your perspective, it was still done, so you can cross it off. Anything that is still on the list at the end of the day gets moved to the page for the next day.
Besides writing everything down, there are several tips to follow for effective time management:
Celebrate Your Capabilities
Make a record and concentrate your efforts on the things that you can do. Avoid concentrating too much on those things that you can’t do. Your symptoms will make sure to remind you of your limitations. Making a list of the things that you are capable of will put you in the right mindset to be motivated for the rest of your time management regime.
Accept Your Limitations
Conversely, you also need to be aware of the things that you can’t do. There will, no doubt, be tasks that you would very much like to be a part of, but trying to go beyond your abilities will set you up for failure and the bad feelings that come with it. If you’re unable to convert your goodwill and passion for a particular task into physical results, it will cause you a great deal of stress. Not only might you let yourself down, but you set yourself up for the guilt you can feel over letting others down.
Much of this is going to seem very regimented, and for that reason, might put some people off. However, FMS sufferers can use regimented routines to keep themselves on track. Having a plan for every day is an important way to make sure that days don’t get away from you before you’ve had a chance to accomplish something with them.
Determine Your Prime Times
This will also affect your schedule. Almost everyone is a “morning person,” or a “night owl.” All this means is that everyone has times of day that are more productive. However, for folks who suffer from FMS, this will mean more than just feeling alert or not.
There are going to be times of day when your symptoms will be worse or better. Only time lets you know when those times will be. After you’ve learned what times those are, you will be able to work with them to improve your schedule and make it more likely that you can accomplish the things you intend. There are times of day when pain and other symptoms are overwhelming and it will require more effort on your part to get things done. However, there will also be times of day when you know from experience will be better for certain tasks.
The temptation with writing everything down is not to let yourself get off schedule. However, the realities of coping with Fibromyalgia, or any other disabling condition is to accept that there will be days when you simply cannot accomplish what you’d hoped to do that day. It’s not procrastination to recognize when you’re just not physically up for performing a particular task. Keep track of tasks that you are unable to do, and then move forward to another task.
It’s also helpful to make yourself some rules to go by. Either these rules might be designed to manage symptoms effectively, codifying limitations you know you have even when they don’t seem to be a problem. Or they might be rules that you use to deal with certain situations. You might have rules to tell you when to rest or when it’s time to get off the computer. Either way, the rules are an effective way to help with scheduling.
Learn to Say “No”
You need to be able to let go of guilt about things you can’t do. Many people overextend themselves, but for people with FMS, it is very important to appreciate the limitations caused by your symptoms. Oddly, the syndrome seems to be most common in people who have the type A personality, which can make it even more difficult for them to say “no.”
It’s also important to recognize that you don’t need to feel guilty, provide an excuse or get defensive. Just be matter-of-fact about it. Other people may not understand what it’s like to live with pain, and there’s no point in letting it affect you or your decisions.
Learn to Delegate
Another skill that can be difficult to put into practice, like saying no. However, it’s important that you distribute your work instead of just getting discouraged because you can’t do everything anymore. If you want to assuage the guilt you might feel about it, barter chores for favours that you can do for others. For example, if baking is your thing, it’s easy enough to trade baking for labour. Bake cookies to a neighbor kid to take the garbage out for you.
Establish Your Priorities
You need to accept that you can’t “do it all.” Take comfort in the fact that nobody else can, either. And that is people who don’t necessarily suffer anything more serious than chronic procrastination. And realize that you might not be as productive as these people.
Try to use as much of the limited amount of energy that you have to do things that will give you joy. So go back to the list that you made at the beginning to look again at what capabilities you want to celebrate. Tasks that involve those capabilities and skills will not only have a better chance of getting done without frustration, but they will also provide you with a greater sense of satisfaction when they’re completed.
As we’ve already pointed out, when you are suffering from FMS, time is no longer a commodity but a luxury. You need to think carefully about how you plan on using it. You are no longer in a situation where you can just try to avoid procrastination and kick yourself about it when you don’t. You need to use your time effectively to give yourself a lift and make your use of time provide you with joy.
“Managing Time/Energy with Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” By Adrienne Dellwo. About.com. http://chronicfatigue.about.com/b/2013/10/21/managing-timeenergy-with-fibromyalgia-chronic-fatigue-syndrome.htm.
“Routine, Reminders, Rules.” Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia: An Integrated Approach. http://www.treatcfsfm.org/submnu-Routine,-Reminders,-Rules-103.html.
“Time Management for Those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, & Other Disabling Conditions.” by Pamela Rice Hahn. http://www.chronic-illness.org/blog/time-management-for-those-with-disabilities.