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How to have a productive day when living with chronic illness and chronic pain. Easy steps to make your daily tasks easier to manage.

How to Have A Productive Day: Living with Chronic Illness

How to have a productive day when living with chronic illness and chronic pain. Easy steps to make your daily tasks easier to manage. www.paintedteacup.comLiving with a chronic illness of any kind can be very challenging! It can be hard to accomplish the tasks you need to do, yet not doing those tasks takes a toll on you mentally and emotionally and you start to question your ability and worth. This can turn into a vicious cycle which often sends you into a downward spiral. If you are living with chronic illness, you probably have first hand experience with this ugly cycle I am describing!


But just because you are living with chronic illness does not mean that you cannot be productive and accomplish your goals, it just takes some planning.


Many people living with chronic illness are aware of Christine Miserandino’s spoon theory. The general idea is that everyone with a chronic illness/chronic pain starts the day with X number of ‘spoons’. As a person with chronic illness, you exchange a certain number of spoons per task (this varies based on the intensity and length of the task, among other things). The point is that you only have a certain number of spoons to use each day so you need to use them wisely. Read more about Christine’s Spoon Theory, it is a really interesting concept!

How to Have a Productive Day When Living with Chronic Illness


Plan Your Activities in Advance

I realize planning in advance is not always possible, but try to do this as best as you can. When planning your activities think about spoon theory to help get a realistic idea of the number of things you can accomplish in a day.


Take Breaks

Going from one task to the next to the next is an excellent way to burn through spoons and leave you out of commission for the rest of the day! Work on the task for what feels like a manageable period of time. This ‘manageable amount of time’ is something that is best learned through trial and error and will vary from task to task, but you are a smart cookie, you will figure this out 🙂 Be sure to pay attention to your pain levels and how you are feeling as this will help you to know when you have reached your limit. Knowing this will help you to plan for breaks the next time you do this task.


Don’t Wait too Long

Chances are as the day progresses your energy levels decrease and pain levels increase. Waiting until the end of the day to work on something you really wanted to accomplish is a good way to set yourself up for failure. Instead, try moving this task to an earlier time of the day. I understand that with children, work, and life in general that this is easier said than done! If your weekday is too full and your only chance is to complete the task/project at the end of the day then consider moving it to another time like the weekend when you are likely to have more ‘spoons’.

Break Chores Down into Smaller Tasks

Completing a big chore all at once or all in one day may be very challenging but chances are that if you break the chore down into smaller tasks, you will be better able to manage it. Take cleaning the bathroom for example: if I were to clean the sink, mirror, vanity, toilet, floors and shower all in one go I would likely be in big trouble for the rest of the day! However, I could totally handle doing the sink, vanity and mirror in one go. Am I accomplishing the whole chore? No. Am I getting more done than if I stayed on the couch? Definitely!



It is hard to give yourself kudos for cleaning half the bathroom, it is for me anyway. But what I have learned is that if I beat myself up over every little thing, chances are I will grow to be a very angry and bitter person… not to mention being in pain! What I have been trying to do (this is a work in progress) is be happy for small victories, no matter how tiny they may be. In the end I still did more than if I did nothing and that has got to count for something! Remember to be gentle with yourself, you are doing the best you can!

Make a To Do List

Whether you have a chronic illness or not, chances are you got to the end of your day yet still have tasks left to complete. This is normal, don’t beat yourself up over this. Instead think of all the things you did accomplish and put the incomplete tasks on the to do list for the next day. Don’t worry, the chores aren’t going anywhere and will still be there tomorrow… I promise!



It is so important that everyone takes time at the end of each day to unwind and relax. This is especially true for people with chronic illness! You need time to sit back, watch a movie, have a bath, read a book, listen to music or simply do nothing at all! You don’t want to dip into tomorrow’s spoon supply because you did too much today so be sure to give your body the break it needs! What helps you to have a productive day? I would love to hear your thoughts below!

25 thoughts on “How to Have A Productive Day: Living with Chronic Illness”

  1. I had had never heard of the spoon theory before. What an interesting concept about breaking down large chores into managable periods of time. I tend to be an all or nothing type person, so this would help me, too.

  2. I love the spoon theory – I hadn’t heard of it before this post, but I definitely use it everyday. I think breaking down your day and tasks is SO important.

  3. This is great! I have struggled greatly with chronic illness. Some days it feels like there is not enough me to go around. I like the spoon theory. I had not heard it before. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Living with chronic illness does indeed suck. My herniated disks have me feeling all kinds of jacked up. Sometimes I am forced to break things down into smaller tasks. Its nice to read an article written by someone who understands what people like me go through.

  5. I remember learning about the spoon theory back when I was in college. Living with a chronic illness of any kind can be very challenging! It’s important to take breath and take things step by step <3

  6. I have Peripartum Cardiomyopaty and Congestive Heart Failure, I know exactly what your talking about when your say Spoon theory. My doctor explained it to my husband as, I have a finite amount of energy and once it’s gone, it’s gone. I can’t take a nap and “wake up”. I go through cycles as well. I was doing really well for a while and I noticed recently that I’ve started a downward slope again. It’s tough not knowing if tomorrow is going to be a good day or a bad day.

  7. these are great tips! I love the spoon theory! Even though I don’t have a chronic illness, I find it so helpful to make a to do list every day!

  8. These are great tips! It is so important for people with chronic illness to remember to listen to their bodies and rest when they need to and take breaks regularly.

  9. For me personally and many others I know, the first half of the day is the most difficult. I’m usually less symptomatic in the evening. That is when I’m better able to get things done. We all need to do what works best. Most important is to listen to our bodies.

  10. Great post. I needed these reminders. I have a handful of chronic conditions/illnesses, and still forget to be gentle with myself. A weekend is a mixed blessing – with days to rest and days to see the things I want to do stay undone. I appreciate your reminder to break things down. Last week I bought supplies to build shelves for the books that have been in boxes and bags since last summer. Maybe tomorrow I can aim to simply hang the hardware. Its at least a step. I’ll try to tackle it in the morning and see how it goes. Thanks again 🙂

  11. Excellent information. I have a chronic illness and beat myself up for not doing enough. I heard a great line in a song by Sara Barielles…she’s messy but she’s kind. I am learning not to put so much pressure on myself. It will eventually all get done.

  12. I have Hashimoto’s and fibromyalgia, along with other body ailments, and have finally given myself permission to hire someone to clean my house. I kept telling myself, “Next weekend I’ll get to it”, every weekend and I just couldn’t get the energy after working all week to clean the house. When I felt good, I wanted to go do things with my husband, not clean because I need to make sure we keep connected. My husband already does all of the cooking and laundry, I did the housework and bills. I felt so guilty hiring someone to do my job, but there was no way I could do it anymore. I still feel worthless at times, but my husband has never once made me feel that way, it’s all myself. I’m still working on learning to take care of myself, which I think is hard for us women. But I’m getting there. 🙂


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