3 Time Management Tips to Increase Productivity Despite IBS

I don’t know how many times I planned a super productive day, only to end up running back and forth between my desk and the bathroom instead of getting anything done. Other people struggle with procrastination or a lack of motivation. I do, too, but my biggest issue with productivity is often my IBS.

When I still worked a 9 to 5 job at an office, it used to be even worse. Due to my morning IBS, there was no point in even having me at work before 10:30 am. All I could do is stare at my screen and be miserable.

Now, I’m lucky to have my office at home. I don’t have strict working hours to follow, which has already helped so much. But I still struggle with productivity, especially in the mornings.

To help anyone who might be in a similar situation, I decided to share 3 time management tips to increase productivity as an IBS sufferer.

Avoid getting up too early in order to get more done

When you have an immense workload to tackle, it seems like a decently reasonable idea to just get up earlier. And if you deal well with mornings in general, there really is no reason why you shouldn’t. But if you’re like me and suffer from your worst IBS flare-ups in the morning, I would highly suggest staying away from this technique.

In my case, my IBS gets exponentially worse if I don’t get enough sleep. And even if I do sleep a decent number of hours, my gut still doesn’t appreciate me waking up before 7 a.m. Therefore, getting up earlier just means that I have a higher chance of getting a flare-up. And that, at least in my opinion, is not exactly productive.

So instead of trying to extend my day by sleeping less, I try to focus on making my normal working hours more productive. Getting up at a normal time, eating safe foods and taking enough breaks really helps reduce IBS symptoms on busy days. This way, I can actually get work done, instead of just spending twice as much time in the bathroom.

Don’t count on a productive morning

Before IBS, I used to be a total morning person. I loved getting all my work done first thing in the day so that I could enjoy my free time in the afternoon. But since morning IBS entered my life, this method doesn’t work as well anymore.

Much too often do I fall into the trap of planning a super productive morning without taking into account that it’s unlikely to happen. The more pressure I put on myself, the more likely my IBS is to come through and ruin my plans.

Just this morning, I wanted to finish one of my projects before a weekly call at 10:30 a.m. I woke up at 7 a.m., wanting to get to work… Let’s just say, I spent the morning between bed and bathroom instead. Every time I thought about all the wasted hours due to my flare-up, it got even worse.

If your IBS is mostly triggered by anxiety and stress like mine, it’s a good idea to avoid time pressure as much as you can. Don’t plan a productive morning if you have morning IBS. Don’t make your to-do list so long that you can’t accommodate a couple of hours of self-care if you end up feeling ill.

Working for shorter periods of time while being completely focused on your tasks is much more productive than spending your day jumping back and forth between different projects anyway.

Distinguish between important tasks and nice-to-have projects

In order to avoid a mile-long to-do list and the stress that comes with it, it’s always a good idea to distinguish between truly important tasks and those that could be done another time. This tip is definitely not specific to people with IBS. But since it really helps reduce stress, I wanted to include it in this list.

Whenever you write down your tasks for the day, define a maximum of three priorities. These are the ones you want to focus on, while all the rest is optional.

If you’re suffering from IBS symptoms, it’s great to know that you only need to accomplish three tasks. The others can wait until you’re feeling better. For me, it’s much less stressful than wondering how I can get 56 projects done if I’m stuck in the bathroom!

And if you are having a good day, you can totally work on the less important projects once you've completed your priorities. This technique really helps me move forward with my work, even when I’m not feeling well. In addition, it keeps me from feeling guilty when I can’t complete my to-do list on a bad day.

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