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How to Stay Productive When You’re Sick

How to Stay Productive When You’re Sick

    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?

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    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.

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    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.

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    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

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    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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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on October 29, 2020

    How to Develop Mental Toughness and Stay Strong

    How to Develop Mental Toughness and Stay Strong

    Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

    I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

    Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

    How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

    Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

    At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success, while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

    The good news is that no matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

    1. Develop a Positive Mindset

    If you’re going to increase your mental toughness and manage stress, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset in everyday life.

    According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

    That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

    Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

    Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

    Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

    It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

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    “I’m not smart enough to…”

    “I don’t have enough experience to…”

    “I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

    When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively.

    When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true, and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

    • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
    • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
    • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

    Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

    Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

    All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was great or awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

    But this isn’t true!

    If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

    If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often.

    When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

    Ditch the Dwelling

    Self-limiting beliefs and all-or-nothing thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative, which is bad news for mental health. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

    When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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    That doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

    The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

    If you struggle with this, you can try the following:

    1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
    2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
    3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
    4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

    The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

    2. Connect With Your Purpose

    One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong “why” for all of your short and long-term goals.

    If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a “why” for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

    Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution, and things weren’t going well. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower or discipline.

    It’s more likely that you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

    Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

    “Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

    One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a why for. Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

    You can learn more on identifying your purpose in this video:

    Find Intrinsic Motivation

    Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something, and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers[3].

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    Develop mental toughness with intrinsic motivation

      Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

      However, if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that “why” is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

      If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things.

      3. Find Strength in Unity

      The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone.

      Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

      Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

      If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

      Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

      The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success, discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

      If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

      Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

      Recruit Some Cheerleaders

      If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders to help you successfully complete your goals. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

      Even if you have a strong why and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

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      As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. When they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs.

      Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

      Form an Accountability Group

      Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong why for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

      Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

      Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

      4. Learn to Pick Yourself up After Setbacks

      Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

      As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

      When you find yourself in a low spot, instead of giving up right away, ask yourself these questions:

      • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
      • “Are negative thoughts distorting my view?”
      • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
      • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
      • “Is this goal still important to me?”
      • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or hold me accountable?”

      Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged.

      This article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

      Tying It All Together

      A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize negative tendencies and taking action to correct them early on with healthy habits. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

      No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

      More on Developing Mental Strength

      Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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