3 productivity hacks I use while living with SMA
These strategies enable me to complete my work and achieve my goals
Among the many SMA symptoms I live with every day, fatigue has permanently staked out its territory at the top of the list. I am perpetually tired. There are days when my fatigue gets the best of me, but more often than not, I’ve learned to live with it. At the start of each day, I strive not to let it have the upper hand in my daily agenda — including my three jobs.
Currently, I’m happily employed at BioNews, the publisher of this site, as a columnist and forums moderator. I sell my artwork on my website. And I’m the chief creative officer for Liberare, an adaptive intimates company. Although these are all part-time jobs, I can’t forget my full-time job, which is the most demanding and stressful of all: living with SMA.
Learning how to strike a balance between work and my health has been challenging, to say the least. It may even be the understatement of the year. The fact of the matter, though, is that my health comes first. No matter how much work I have to accomplish, my main priority is my well-being, and everything else is secondary.
So in order to balance both in a healthy manner, I had to learn to work smarter. And by working smarter, I became more productive and at ease about working three jobs. Following are three productivity hacks I’ve learned from working and living with a disability.
Make time to rest
A few years ago, you couldn’t have convinced me that rest was productive. My family and friends would always beg me to slow down, but I wouldn’t listen until it was too late. I’d experience presyncope symptoms, or I’d have a plethora of gastrointestinal issues. Some days, I couldn’t accomplish a single task, and I’d give every excuse as to why I ended up in that position, often blaming it on my body. But the truth was right in front of me: I wasn’t letting my body rest.
Living with a disability means my body needs more rest than the average person’s. In learning to do so, I found I actually accomplished more when I rested. My body needs recharging. All bodies do.
So now I pace myself. I take breaks after completing tasks, for however long I need. I listen to my body, especially when it’s telling me to rest. And most importantly, I happily oblige.
Staying organized helps me simplify life with SMA. With chronic fatigue comes chronic brain fog. And in juggling three jobs, it’s easy to forget what needs to be done. Keeping a digital planner has allowed me to work smarter and more efficiently. My energy on any given day is finite. But knowing what has to get done helps me prioritize where my energy is needed most.
Set realistic goals
I’ll admit I’m an overachiever. But living with SMA quickly gives me a reality check about what I can and can’t accomplish. As a result, there’s often a discrepancy between what I set out to do and what my body is capable of doing, so it’s important that I set realistic goals for myself. If not, it can lead to burnout. Or, in some instances, I can feel like a failure if I keep falling short of my goals.
In order to avoid this, I have to be honest with myself. I have to look at my calendar to see what doctor appointments I have that week and how much energy they will require of me. I have to check in with my body regularly and be willing to adapt to the unpredictability that is SMA. Only then can I set realistic goals.
Living with SMA has its challenges. Fortunately, using these productivity hacks helps me spend my time well and achieve my goals. I enjoy working and deserve to work, and finding the right tools to help me do so is half the battle.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.