How I Stay Productive at Work With Crohn's Disease

Patient Expert
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Everyone struggles at times to stay on track at work. Energy levels change, projects come up, and there are always constant distractions in the world we live in today. But getting through a day of work with Crohn's disease can be tough in its own right. The distractions you have are likely ones your coworkers don’t often experience: It’s side-splitting pain in your stomach, fatigue that can hit instantly, and trips to the bathroom that you can't avoid.

So how do you stay on track and still get the tasks done to succeed in your job? It's not easy, and I can say from experience that it takes a lot of work.

Personally, I am a financial adviser and the founder of Chronically Better You, an online resource for people living with chronic illness. All of this means I work in an office and I'm on the road a lot. This career has inspired me to create a flexible but efficient system to stay on track. It's not fool-proof, and nothing really is with Crohn's, but I will tell you the secret: It's all about creating habits and routines you can stick to on the good days and the not-so-good days.

Planning is key with Crohn's

First, find a planner that works for you. There are many productivity planners out there now, but many aren’t realistic systems for patients with a chronic illnesses like Crohn’s. I even created a journal system specifically designed for patients with chronic illness to not only track their health, but also be more productive and focused on their jobs.

No matter what planning system you use, it’s important to follow it as best you can. There are going to be times when life or your Crohn's will throw you off track, but it’s important to get back on that track as soon as possible. After a flare, hospital stay, or any other disruption of life Crohn's throws at you, it’s important to not let it derail you for too long.

9 daily practices to work efficiently with Crohn's

Here is what I do on a daily basis to maintain a schedule and routine that guides me through life with Crohn's:

  1. Stay flexible and don't get upset. No matter how severe your disease is, there will be bumps in the road that may affect your work. Make sure you can build in at least some flexibility into your work day to allow for unexpected trips to the bathroom or breaks to rest. Even if you're just scheduling enough extra time to go for a short walk, that's a great start.
  2. Your day starts the night before. Establish a nighttime routine to prepare for the next day. This will allow you to sleep better with a clear mind and wake up with a plan you can stick to.
  3. Wake up and move. Don't stay in bed after waking unless you absolutely have to. Start your day with purpose.
  4. Have a morning routine. Make your bed, review your calendar, and do anything else that gets you ready for the day. Completing small tasks to start the day give you a sense of accomplishment and will propel you into everything at work.
  5. Journal about your health and your work. Follow a system to track your progress, productivity, and health — whether that be your symptoms or reminders to take your meds. Writing affirms what you are doing and is scientifically proven to help reach your goals.
  6. Stick to three main tasks per day. Some experts say that after three major tasks each day, your productivity goes down. Don’t try or expect to be able to do everything at once, which can cause extra stress that may exacerbate your Crohn's, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation.
  7. Practice gratitude. Be thankful for even little things each day. You can even make a list of these things in your journal. It will put you in a better state of mind to take on anything during your work day.
  8. Celebrate daily wins. Every day, you’ll have big and small tasks that you complete. Celebrate all of these in some way. For example, when you finish a task, take a 15-minute break or get a coffee or another treat.
  9. Work in time blocks. Experts say that after working for 90 minutes straight, your focus and work will diminish. Set your day up with 30-, 60-, and 90-minute time blocks with breaks right after each. This will help you combat any fatigue you feel due to Crohn's.

There are so many things people with Crohn's can do every day to be more productive and more efficient at work. These are just the starting points. From personal experience, I can say that doing just a few of the above things each day can truly change your life and make your work life more enjoyable and less stressful, all while staying as healthy as possible with Crohn's.