The One Project You Can’t Put Off When You’re Sick

You may be avoiding the one thing you need to focus on.

by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
Going to work sick can actually harm productivity
by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
Going to work sick can actually harm productivity

Right now, I should be resting. Instead, I’m writing a blog post about resting.

I’ve felt a bit under the weather for the last week. Not so bad that I was forced to sit on the couch and binge home improvement shows all day, but I haven’t been on my A game.

The problem with getting sick is that you don’t feel like doing anything. Pretty soon, you have a week of incomplete tasks backed up and you haven’t even made room for the one project you need to be focused on more than anything:

 ☐ Get Better

Getting sick is an interruption. Nobody plans on it, even though it happens to the best of us. You get tired quicker and you can’t think clearly. You get more stressed and deny yourself the restorative rest your body needs, which just keeps you sick longer.

Clear your task list for some of the big rocks that just got dropped in your lap:

  1. Rest. The first thing to do is just what your body is telling you: slow down. Your brain and body aren’t at peak efficiency. It’s tempting to push through and not let productivity completely stop, but research has shown that our best bet is to rest, heal, and return to work when we’re back at 100%.
  2. Sleep more than normal. Your body wants sleep because it needs sleep. A sleep deficit can weaken our immune system and make us sick. When you’re sick, sleep as much as you feel like. Once you’re better, design the sleep you need into your ideal weekly schedule.
  3. Take your medication. Keep a list of what you take when. Not only does it reduce the likelihood you’re going to over- or under-dose yourself, your doctor will want to know what you’ve been taking if you decide to seek medical treatment.
  4. Reduce your exposure to others. Cold medicine commercials lead to presenteeism—showing up at work when you really shouldn’t. You may feel better, but you’re still contagious. If you can’t take a sick day, work from home. Work from a quarantined location at the office. At the very least, wear a mask.

Follow your body’s lead. If you just feel like curling up on the couch and watching TV, then grab the remote, curl up on the couch, and watch TV. You can’t think clearly anyway, so it’s a great time for things that don’t require much thought.

Presenteeism—showing up at work when you really shouldn’t—has staggering costs. According to the American Productivity Audit and subsequent studies by the Journal of the American Medical Association, presenteeism causes $150 billion in lost productivity every year.

And you’re not doing your boss or your business any favors by showing up and pushing through it when you’re sick. Those same studies have shown that the cost of presenteeism is three times that of illness-related absences. You may think they’re better off with 70% of you for the day, but that thinking is too short-sighted. Look at the big picture, and you’re worth more if you focus on that Get Better task.

Yes, there’s work to be done. There always will be. It will be waiting for you when you get better.

In the mean time, enjoy the rest. Now imagine what life could feel like if you always got the rest you need.

Question: What’s your favorite passtime when you’re under the weather? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.