Rehabilitation from a serious injury is practically like a full-time job. I’m not working, and I’m so busy! Once, my friend said, “Oh yay, I have a four-day weekend! I don’t have work on Friday and Monday!”
To which I said, “OMG, I’m so jealous!”
Wait, I’ve literally had the last year and two months off work.
Given that my neck brace days weren’t jam-packed with activities, I had to make myself more organized once I started my recovery and rehabilitation out of the neck brace. Things were slow-going during the first stages of my rehabilitation. My sole organization tool was Google Calendar, where I entered my physio appointments, French lessons, and light exercise routine.
As I progressed, I included more and more activities into my daily (unemployed) life. Six months later and I’m swimming 3x/week. Doing yoga 2-3x/week. Weight training 2-3x/week. Plus going for physio 2x/week. Gardening a full day once a week. Meeting people. Improving my French. Cooking for my husband and me. My neck exercises. My endurance-to-impact exercises. All the things I set out to do and learn before going back to work!
Although I haven’t updated my blog in a while, that was my life for at least the last two months. It’s a lot for someone who doesn’t even have a job, right? People tell me I should take a break once in a while…
Yin Shan, my new penpal who also injured her neck, couldn’t have said it any better:
I feel [like] it’s a balance between how much we do (a.k.a. getting our lives back) and how much time we spend on our exercises and healing and rest. [And that’s] something I am still trying to [get] a good hand on.
So! Here are the tools I use to stay organized, productive, and (most importantly) happy and fulfilled through it all:
I’ve already briefly talked about this nifty planner here. Let me go into more detail about what I love about it:
1. Goal-setting pages
Though I’ve always been a very organized person, this planner helped me become so much more prepared and mindful of my goals and plans for my recovery. I started using it after my last appointment with my neurosurgeon in March, when he told me I couldn’t go back to work until June (in two weeks now!). My brain was also all over the place with random personal projects. I had to reassess and reformulate my goals for those remaining three months and ensure that I followed through them.
Here is the first page of the planner:
The first few pages of the planner allow you to make “passion plans” – mind maps of how you can accomplish your major short-term goals. One of my primary goals was to regain as much strength and mobility in my neck.
Among my other goals were to:
- Get super fit and healthy to go back to work
- Swim laps for exercise
- Master French – advanced level
I made full “passion maps” for each! 🙂 But I don’t feel like sharing them. Hehe. I set the end of June (my return to work) as the deadline.
The planner has space for you to write to-do lists (personal and work) and your focus for each day and the week. Every month there is a little questionnaire/checkpoint for you to evaluate what happened that month (what you liked, what you could do better, etc.). The idea is to use your goal/passion maps to integrate (i.e., ACTUALLY WRITE OUT) concrete actions into your daily/weekly life in order to eventually meet your goals!
I don’t meticulously use all these features, but they’re there. And I obviously didn’t become 100% perfect and accomplish all those things on my to-do lists. But I honestly couldn’t imagine being more productive than I already am.
Though there are motivational quotes for every week, I don’t even read them. LOL. They’re kind of too much. And almost every single week my focus has been “to sleep early” – and it happened ONLY THREE TIMES. Haha.
2. Weekly planning
At first, I just scribbled the dates and times of my physio and exercise sessions on one piece of paper every week and went off of that. Then I realized I needed to visualize the blocks of time on paper, so I began to use weekly planner templates. Just one every week. And then I wanted to plan things weeks in advance and didn’t want to print several sheets at once. It didn’t take me long to realize that hey, an actual bound planner was the solution.
The planner plus shipping is quite pricey (approx 40 CAD) so I just printed the free templates online and made one myself at half price. But I messed up the pagination and ended up with something that I wouldn’t show in public… except now, I guess! See above!
Okay, so I just want to share how I plan my exercise routine because it’s extremely effective for me. Every Sunday, I sit down with my planner and figure out the days when I will swim, do yoga, and lift weights according to the “quotas” I’ve set for myself. For swimming, I have to take my physio appointments (which are usually planned up to two weeks in advance) and pool times into consideration because they’re only a seven-minute walk away from each other. I generally swim before or after my physio appointments to save time walking to each place and back separately. I do M/W/F to be able to swim 3x/week… weekends are hell at the pool with all the children there. I do my weight training at home on my off days from swimming twice a week. Maybe an extra session with a class if I’m feeling motivated or not too exhausted. As for yoga, I check the schedules of two yoga centres I go to online and see which classes I like and just put the times in my planner. Finally, I make sure I have one rest day when I don’t do any serious exercise! Then EXERCISE SCHEDULE FOR THE WEEK, DONE! For me, that’s already half of the work. I just go about my week and exercise as planned! I stress out if this whole plan isn’t done by the Monday of each week, LOL.
I started reading a book called Better Than Before on habit building. Though I don’t have the motivation/interest to finish it (I was disappointed by the terrible writing), I at least characterized myself as an Obliger. This means that I respond well to forming habits and fulfilling goals if there are set times or actual people who depend on me. (In contrast, I find it hard to fulfill personal/inner expectations that don’t have deadlines or consequences. This is why I haven’t done any painting and drawing projects like I wanted to!) Consequently, writing set times and set days for when I will exercise has worked wonders for me. I even managed to stick to it while I was out-of-town for a conference last month. Pre-accident, I would stay active but just had my schedule in my head. It was easier to abandon a workout because it wasn’t written down in stone (or paper). You can find out more about the author’s four habit-forming tendencies here.
All photos for the Passion Planner show neatly written weekly spreads, all colour-coded and organized.
Well, here are mine:
Pinterest can go ahead and cower at how ugly my spreads are.
Anyway, I loved my makeshift four-month Passion Planner so much that I just bit the bullet and ordered a real one. I received the academic version in the mail a few weeks ago and can’t wait to start using it in August!!! I ordered one for my cousin (who recommended this planner to me in the first place) and me, sharing the shipping from the US!
A few weeks ago, I realized that I kept falling off the wagon with my neck exercises and that I was experiencing more pain than usual. I kept telling myself to get my shit together and just do the stupid neck exercises. But it never worked. Until my new penpal Yin Shan (from above) suggested using a habit building and tracking app on my phone. She uses Productive for iOS. The closest thing I found was Habitbull for Android. It’s also available on iOS.
Though I’ve been using it for only a week LOL, it’s been easier to complete my physio exercises. The free version allows you to track up to five habits. The only non-physio habit I am building with it is to read the news while I have breakfast. Haha. I shamefully admit that I’m terrible at keeping up with current affairs.
You can also set reminders throughout the day – like neck exercises at 10 a.m.! Second set of neck exercises after dinner at 8 p.m.! It’s so annoying; I keep thinking I’m receiving a text! But no… gGotta do neck exercises. Ugh.
I like being able to check off a habit at the end of the day, and feel guilty and want to do better if I didn’t check it off. That’s the point, I guess?
I’ve already talked about it at length here. Here is my current regime for my neck exercises (this is what I mean by “neck stretching whole thing” on my Habitbull above):
- Neck flexion 20 secs x 3
- Neck extension 20 secs x 3
- L side bending 20 secs x 3
- R side bending 20 secs x 3
- Look R (rotation) – 20 secs x 3
- Look L (rotation) – 20 secs x 3
- Hold L side of face, push to the right, and resist without moving head (isometric) – 10 secs x 5
- Hold R side of face, push to the right, and resist without moving head (isometric) – 10 secs x 5
- Look down, bend to L, and look up – 20 secs x 3
- Look down, bend to R, and look up – 20 secs x 3
- Lie down, hold head up few mm of ground – 15 secs x 10
- Lie down, tuck chin in, push head into ground – 15 secs x 10
Approx. 20 minutes total time.
I use this interval timer for my workouts too!
Weight training log
I didn’t like the formats I saw online, so I just made my own. I just make blank Excel spreadsheets using a format that works for me, print them, and write on them during my workout.
The main benefit of keeping a weight training log is that you’ll never lose track of the last weight you lifted. You can see your progress and continue to challenge yourself safely!
I’ve kept all my logs for the last six months since I started weight training. See my early ones here! I always have them to refer to when I change exercises and want to know how much I lifted in the past.
Microsoft Excel (in general)
Dealing with out-of-country and disability insurance has been so much of an organizational nightmare that I couldn’t have done it without Excel. Enough said. I keep spreadsheets of EVERYTHING. My husband praises me for it. Haha.
Cooking once or twice for the week
Injury recovery isn’t just about including more activities throughout your day. It’s also about nourishing your body healthfully, so you have the energy to power through them! I now make sure that I always have home-cooked food in our fridge that’ll last us for a couple of days. That way I’ve always had delicious food ready right after my workout or swim!
I’ve realized that the best way to do this was to have a big cooking session once or twice a week to prepare about three meals plus a dessert (hehe). It has worked well for us for the last few months. No more stressing on weeknights, hurrying to cook, starving after a workout, or buying food just because it’s convenient!
The big cleanup sucks though, but we save time on the cleanup too. Once we finish all that food, I’ll go through my fridge, pretend I’m on a Masterchef challenge, and use up things that’ll go bad soon because I hate wasting food.
What are your most helpful and motivating productivity and organizational tools? 🙂