So far this year, I've had one normal work day. One. Just a day after returning to work from my holiday break, I needed a sick day. That turned into a "sick week." And it's now going on week two.
Surprisingly though, those sick days have still been productive days. I launched several new features here on this site. I published several blog posts on various sites I own. I installed and customized a new theme on my business site. And I completed plenty of other smaller projects in a fairly long to-do list.
The key? I stayed away from business emails, and I was officially off in terms of working with clients.
Why was this key? It meant my schedule in no way revolved around anyone else. If I wanted to work for ten minutes, I could. If I wanted to work on something for hours and I felt up to it, I did. And if I wanted to say "to Hell with it" and climb back in bed for the day, I could do that too. It also meant I wasn't putting out client work when I was far from 100%. That wouldn't have been good for anyone involved.
By all means, if you feel too sick to do anything, take off completely. Your health should be your top priority. But if you have even a little bit of energy, there are many things you can do to make sure you stay productive, or at least don't fall too far behind, when you take sick time as a writer.
Here are some specific ideas for work you can do, even when you're not feeling well.
Catch up on some reading.
Read blogs. Read books. Read magazines you plan to query. As a writer, you can never read too much. And this is something you can do even if you're confined to bed while you recover.
Catch up with your network.
When you're on a normal work schedule, you probably try to limit the time you spend on things like email and social media. You have to if you want to work more productively and maximize your billable time. But if you're taking a sick day, why not spend some time reading updates from your colleagues and prospects? Read their blogs. Review your Twitter network. Find new people to follow and purge people who are no longer active in your social networks.
Work on your own blog posts.
When you aren't focused on client projects, you can turn your attention to your own blog. Even if you don't feel up to publishing something during your down time, you can use some of that time to come up with new blog post ideas or outline some of those ideas to put you in a better position when you get back to work.
Even if you don't want to write at all while you're recovering, why not brainstorm new ideas that will put you on a better path when you get back to work? For example, you might brainstorm article ideas to pitch to magazines. You could brainstorm guest post ideas for blogs. You can brainstorm around any project you plan to pursue -- a book, a new marketing strategy for your freelance services, a new professional website, or anything else important to you.
Focus on the administrative side of your business.
There are always things you can quietly do on the back end of your business, even if you're publicly taking time off. Clean out your spam boxes in your email or blog comments. Review your website analytics. Go over your finances for the month. Make adjustments to your work schedule for when you return to work fully. Organize your work space.
You certainly don't have to work when you're ill. I'm a big believer in taking plenty of time off when you really need it. But if you have a minor illness or you're on medications that leave you just a bit too drowsy to focus on client projects, that doesn't mean you have to lose all of that work time if you don't want to. There are plenty of ways you can keep your productivity up while you still allow plenty of time to rest and recover.
Do you ever take these kinds of semi-sick days, where you're off as far as client work goes, but you still focus on some work behind the scenes? If so, what do you like to do with your time to stay professionally active when you're sick? Share your ideas and stories in the comments.