How to be Productive When You’re Sick

By Art Carden

It happens to everyone, and indeed it’s sudden occurrence motivated the first draft of this post: you have a long list of projects to work on, and you wake up with a cold that’s more than just a case of the sniffles. How do you move your work forward without compromising your ability to heal? Obviously, some people are good at just resting and healing, others aren’t substantially affected by illness, and there are scholars who can draft path-breaking books while fighting off a pesky anthrax infection and being mauled by mountain lions. For the rest of us, there are a few things we can do that help us relax while we  keep things moving.

In her excellent How to be Human, Though an Economist, Deirdre McCloskey writes that she cleans up “in a dull moment.” Along similar lines, I recall reading a post from a blogger from the David Allen Company writing about keeping a “Toast” list of things to do when your brain is toast.

If you’re sick, or if your brain is toast, you might not be in a condition to do sustained, serious work or make big decisions. This doesn’t mean you can’t get something done. What do you have that’s marginally important that you want to do? Do you have TED Talks or EconTalk podcasts to catch up on? Blog posts you want to write? Unanswered emails? An office that needs cleaning? Papers that need filing? Anything that normally stands in the way of productivity but that can probably be shunted off into what Deirdre McCloskey calls “a dull moment?” Being sick isn’t fun, and you might not be in top shape, mentally; however, you can probably move something forward.

Do you have a toast list, or something like it? What should be on it?


Art Carden is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, a Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, a Research Fellow with the Independent Institute, a Senior Fellow with the Beacon Center of Tennessee, and a regular contributor to Forbes.comLearnLiberty, and Kosmos.

Flickr Creative Commons Robert S Donovan


More from Art Carden

Productivity Tips with a Baby

“So What do you Work On?”

Making the Most of Trips

5 Ways to Be for Meetings

1 Comment