You’ve got a major project at work this week, and the deadline is absolute. You work hours of overtime, lose out on sleep, and before you know it, you’re sick as a dog.

It’s a nightmare scenario that we’ve all faced a dozen times before. You’re too sick to work, but still tied up in a project that is too important to neglect. So what can you do?

If you need to stay productive while also dealing with a nasty cold or flu, here are some tips that may be able to help you get better while also helping you to deal with your overwhelming workload.

1. Take a Day Off

For many people who have major projects on the horizon, this is not going to be a your first option. That being said, you may be so sick that you really don’t have much of a choice.

As a migraine sufferer, I’ve learned that I can’t be my usual workaholic self when I’ve got my head in a toilet. If you are sick, really, truly, terribly sick, you need to take it easy. Not only will you be back to your normal self much sooner, but you will also prevent yourself from making stupid mistakes at work or while communicating with co-workers.

2. Load Up on Cold Cures

Scarf down six bowls of chicken noodle soup, drink a gallon of OJ, drink lots of clear fluids, and take plenty of vitamins. Take over the counter cold drugs, or herbal remedies like echinacea (after making sure that you aren’t at risk for any unintended side effects.)

Do whatever it takes to get better. If you eat right and get plenty of fluids, you’ll be better equipped to keep working on important, time-sensitive projects without having to go back and revise your previous work while sick. Just beware of certain drugs (like some sinus-clearing over the counter pills) that can cause drowsiness or the dreaded “medicine head.”

You may also find relief from taking hot showers, applying hot or cold compresses to your skin and face, drinking lots of hot herbal tea, and sleeping with an extra pillow under your neck to position your head for improved draining of the sinus cavities.

3. Work in Short Bursts

It will take you longer to get in a full 8 hour day, but by working in short bursts with frequent breaks, you can keep up your energy levels and ensure that you stay completely focused on the task at hand.

This might be an excellent time to experiment with the Pomodoro Technique, a time management technique where you budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically. You work for 25 minutes, then take break for five minutes… and when you are feeling under the weather, this gives you much needed rest while also giving you a sense of accomplishment.

4. Isolate Yourself from Co-workers

If you must work, you should work from home, or in some other way that isolates you from your co-workers. That way, if you were working on the same project with them, you wont cripple the whole team by spreading around your sickness. This ensures that even if your productivity is lower, the productivity of the rest of your team will be unaffected.

5. Look to the Future

When Alex Fayle of the blog Someday Syndrome is too sick to work, he still manages to stay productive by changing the focus of his work. Rather than work on pressing, urgent projects that he might mistakes on due to his illness, he instead focuses on long-term planning and thinking about his future career goals.

“I could have gotten cranky. I could have pushed myself and produced utter crap, he explains. “Or I could have taken a break and let whatever was bothering me pass. My lazy tendencies stirred long enough to convince me of the virtue in the last option… But I wasn’t completely unproductive. I also took the time to come up with a series of visions for my future – not the outcome kind of future but an action-based one. I looked 6 months, 1 year, 3 years and 5 years into the future and decided what I was doing… People who picture future actions rather than future outcomes are more likely to achieve their goals.”

How do you maximize your productive hours when you are suffering from a serious cold or nasty flu bug? Tell us in the comments below, follow us on Twitter, or take the conversation over to Facebook.

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