We have all been there. You have a great rhythm going—you’re hitting the gym regularly, you’re productive and prayerful in your sermon prep, and your family life is going well too. “Finally,” you think, “things are under control.” And that’s when it happens.
You get sick.
You’re wiped out, work is piling up, and your routine is spiraling down the toilet. What’s more, you feel like you are letting everyone down, while you recover.
The question then is: How do we stay productive during illness and get back on track after we recover?
Here is a 5-step plan to stop sickness from ruining your productivity.
Just how sick am I?
The first step is to properly assess our physical condition. Often ministry leaders feel the pressure to keep going even when they are at death’s door. But it is important to consider that your body may be telling you to rest.
While sometimes you just have to preach, often we push through serious illness instead of resting. We do this for short-term benefits on things that can wait. But we may be creating worse long-term repercussions by toughing it out when really we just need to rest.
Coming to the office for the weekly staff meeting, working ahead on your next sermon series, or meeting with someone you disciple while you are sick only leads to lower quality work, a protracted illness, and you spreading your nasty germs. Sometimes it is simply better to stay home and recover.
But how do you take the time to recover when so many things demand your attention?
Don’t Google it. It means get better. Give me a break. I’m trying to alliterate here, guys.
The path to recovery is simple: Rest, but don’t get lazy.
Illness can be a gift to force us to slow down. Get sleep, pray for your people by name, do some reading, and think about the big picture of your ministry. But don’t waste this gift.
There’s a difference between taking rest and taking advantage of your sickness. Don’t spend your recovery time binge-watching all 209 seasons of Veggie Tales (I see you, pastor). But seriously, I’m not too worried about enabling laziness. I know lazy pastors exist, but I doubt they read blogs on productivity. I think the pendulum swings the other way for most of us. At least I hope it does. We want to burn brightly for the Lord but sometimes, if we aren’t careful, we can burn right out.
To alleviate the pressure of taking a reprieve from responsibilities, we need to clearly communicate. Yes, get your rest, but keep up on email, set up an out of the office reminder, and let your appointments know you cannot make it.
What are the bedrock non-negotiables that need to be kept up while you’re sick, and what are the things you can let go until you recover? Figure that out, and just decide what to do about the important stuff.
Delegate anything you can. If you think you will be too sick to preach or lead a study, is there someone who can take over this week? More on this in point five.
Defer everything else. Anything that cannot be delegated will have to be deferred. But you must clearly communicate to all concerned parties that you will need to put off those dates to another time. They will understand.
4. Climb Back
Even once you’re back on your feet, you need to admit that it’s gonna take a few days or weeks (depending on how sick you were) before you’re back to 100%. Don’t sprint to the gym and start maxing out your deadlift on day one (do you even lift, bro?). And don’t think you’re going to be able to pick up where you left off with your studies and that super-spiritual groove you were in. These things take time.
It’s a slow ramp up. Give yourself time to get back your vigor.
5. Construct a Plan for Next Time
Do you have redundancies built into your ministry, or are you a single point of failure? If you lead a Bible study do you have a backup leader? If you are the main preacher, do you have men you have identified whom you can tag in on a Saturday night? Can your wife and kids help pick up some of the slack at home? Illness can help reveal the areas where you need to lead your people to serve so that your church’s ministry does not rise or fall with you.
If you think about it, having a game plan for when you are incapacitated is just another sign of being a good leader. So, cultivate a plan and be the most productive even while you’re under the weather.
Productivity is about making the most of the resources you have. If one of your most important resources—your body—is only at 60%, then success for that period of time has a ceiling of 60%. Just because you cannot be 100% productive as you normally would strive for, does not mean you have to settle for being 0% productive. So, hopefully, next time you get sick you will have a plan in place and upon considering how sick you are, take the time to get the rest you need, communicate to your people, and climb back up to health when it’s all over.