A man sitting on the hands of a clock taking a break.

Time Blocking: Getting Stuff Done With MS

I’ve always had a hard time feeling motivated. Even before my life with multiple sclerosis (MS) had begun, getting myself to actually want to do something took a lot of effort. After my diagnosis, the number of hurdles in the way of me being able to build up the motivation to do something only grew. Adding fatigue, pain, the stress of life with a chronic illness, depression, and all the other things that come with the “MS package” only made everything that much more difficult.

The activity didn't matter

It didn’t matter if it was a chore like scrubbing the bathtub or something fun like going out to see a movie. When the time came to do it, more often than not, I would rather just put it off so I could lie down. So I could just sit there, do nothing, and inevitably feel guilty at the end of the day for yet again not having accomplished anything. Another day wasted.

Feeling guilty for things outside your control

I’m sure a lot of people reading this can relate to that last part: feeling guilty for not being as productive as you would like to have been even though it was due to something you really couldn’t control. Most people in the MS community would agree that you have to listen to your body. When you need to rest, you need to rest. Pushing yourself to do otherwise can do way more harm than good.

I needed to regain control

Even though I knew that and often preached it, I couldn’t get over that feeling of guilt… especially when I started to notice that my life had seemingly hit a brick wall as a result of me constantly failing to keep up with my obligations. I realized that MS was dictating my life, which is something I remember telling myself I would never allow. So something had to change. I needed to regain control of my life despite MS having a death grip on the reins.

Keeping a to-do list that I could access anywhere

But first, let me address where I already was when it came to time and task management. Something I started doing years ago was keeping a to-do list. It was synced across all my devices, so no matter what I was doing or where I was, if I suddenly remembered or thought of something I needed to take care of, I could just write it down. That way, whenever I found myself sitting there not knowing what I should do, I could just take a look at my to-do list.

The list made me feel more guilty

But this ultimately did nothing to address the issue I was trying to solve. In fact, it probably made it worse because now I had a list of all the stuff I should be doing to look at and put off while I sat there and felt guilty for putting everything off yet another day. And as I kept putting things off, my to-do list kept growing and eventually would become so large that the idea of even looking at it became too overwhelming. My to-do list was now my “you-should-feel-guilty” list. So, clearly, that wasn’t working.

Dividing my day into blocks

While looking for a time management strategy that was better than my basic to-do list, I learned about something called time blocking. Time blocking basically involves dividing your day into “blocks” of time and then distributing everything on your to-do list into those blocks. This way, you can focus better on the task assigned to the time block you are currently in because everything else has its own time for you to worry about it.

Could this help motivate me?

While I thought that this could definitely help me manage my stress better (I always had a hard time not thinking about everything at once), I also realized this could help me in my war against my MS. Best of all, this could really help me with my motivation issues. It doesn’t matter if I don’t really feel like doing something because if it’s on my schedule, well, don’t think about it, just do it.

Break my to-do list into manageable chunks

I saw how time blocking could help me schedule my tasks in ways that not only would help me break down my to-do list into smaller, more manageable chunks but also how I could schedule breaks throughout the day to avoid burning myself out. That may seem like a tiny detail, but really, it has been life-changing for me.

Scheduling time to relax

You see, because I had always found it really difficult to not feel like everything I had to do was hanging over my shoulder till I got it done, I found it really hard to take a break and relax. No matter what I did, I couldn’t stop thinking about everything I had to get done; I couldn’t stop stressing! Time blocking has literally allowed me to schedule blocks of time where I don’t do anything but relax. I turn off my phone, silence my email alerts, stay off social media, and even try to step away from everything by literally going outside and having a coffee or going for a walk.

My to-do list was getting easier to complete

In just the first few weeks of implementing this strategy into my life, I found that my everlasting to-do list was getting easier and easier to complete! I felt less stressed throughout the day and even started feeling like I had a little more energy, which made it easier to really start working out and sticking to my fitness routine.

Focusing on my fitness routine

Unsurprisingly, being able to focus more on my fitness routine seemed to start helping me manage my fatigue a little better. Between my now-consistent exercising, my lower stress levels, and being able to see that everything on my to-do list for the day was crossed out, my mood was becoming so much better! Feeling less overwhelmed by my to-do list even started making me feel a little more motivated to knock it all out because as stupid as it may sound, seeing that I crossed out everything on my list by the end of the day is such a great feeling.

Moving forward in my life

I don’t mean to make it seem like this was/is at all easy or like I don’t still find myself wishing that I could get more done in a day. I know that this strategy isn’t right for everyone, and it isn’t a fix-all, but it definitely seems to be doing the trick for me. I’m the kind of person who likes and needs structure in my life. I always have been. Scheduling out my day like this just so happens to also solve a lot of the problems that MS has created for me. It has allowed me to regain a sense of control in my life and to feel like I’m actually moving forward again despite MS continuously trying to hold me back. I’m still in the process of fine-tuning everything, but I imagine that’s always going to be part of this strategy since life is always changing, especially when you’re living with such a dynamic disease like MS.

Share your thoughts!

Do you struggle with motivation issues? Do you find it hard to get anything done? What, if anything, do you do to try to manage your life and everything you have to do each day? Would a time-management strategy like time blocking maybe help you break up your day into smaller bites? Who knows, it might be something worth looking into. Share your thoughts on this subject below!

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