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When You’re Not Feeling Well, Do These 5 Things (1 Is Obvious)

Both Active and Passive Activities Can Fuel Your Recovery

Hi friend!

I skipped out on sending an issue of The Slow Digest newsletter last weekend—I was kinda bummed about it, but it was the right decision.

Today, I want to share what happened and the 5 things I did instead during this time (and the surprising power of active pursuits during recovery)

💡 Today at a glance

  • 5 things to do when you’re in not feeling well

  • The power of the Slow Productivity mindset during our rest and recovery mode

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So here’s what happened.

I had a planned procedure a couple of weeks ago. Nothing too major. The recovery was expected to be fairly routine.

Unfortunately, the recovery didn’t go according to plan. I experienced more pain and discomfort for longer than expected.

I was in no real mental state or mood to be doing any focused work like:

  • Writing a newsletter

  • Creating content online

  • Working on my current projects

My beautifully laid out Weekly Plan in Notion went out the window of course (I have a weekly planning and review session every Sunday morning with a cup of coffee in hand to set myself up for the week).

Instead, I tailored what I did with my time to how I was feeling mentally and physically. Some days or times of the day I would feel better or worse.

I had to postpone a few meetings and went off social media for the most part (If you got in touch with me via X / Twitter I will get back to you soon!).

At the beginning, I was still keen on getting at least my weekly newsletter done that week.

But then I realised, rather than trying to write something that is not quite up to my usual standard (and it’ll likely take 2x or 3x longer than usual!), I made the intentional decision to take the pressure off and skip a week. 

And felt great about it once I made the decision.

So What did I actually do instead?

1. Sleep and rest (obvious)

This is the obvious first thing I did.

I threw my weekly plan out of the window and slept or rested in bed a lot (whenever I needed to).

The fastest way to recovery is giving your mind and body the rest it needs, without feeling guilty about it.

2. Catch up on TV shows and entertainment

I find TV shows and movies can quickly become an unproductive use of my time.

I’m not against a healthy dose of entertainment… but I know myself. If I give myself the opportunity to, I know can’t resist binge watching addictive TV shows!

So I try to keep this kind of consumption to something I do with my husband on the couch, when we just want to chill out at night or on the weekend.

But TV show binges are great for when you’re feeling unwell!

When I wasn’t sleeping, I tuned into a few of TV shows on my watch list… and felt zero guilt about it.

3. Spend time on a hobby (mine was photography)

I’m a big fan for having hobbies, especially analog hobbies like hiking, drawing, baking etc.

Photography is a bit of a hybrid analog and digital hobby. Going out to take photos is the “analog” part. Viewing, editing and sharing the photos is largely a digital activity in front of a computer screen (unless you’re doing film photography and processing film in a dark room).

I’ve also long struggled with the idea of not turning every hobby into a side hustle pursuit.

Side hustling is such a common cultural narrative right now.

If you become good at something, it’s hard not to be influenced into turning the hobby into a side hustle to generate income. Photography has been a two decade hobby for me. Over the years, it’s yo-yo’d between being a hobby and a monetised side hustle.

When I was unwell but had some energy, I started diving into my giant backlog of travel photos. Culling and editing thousands of photos.

It felt so good to do something fun and mentally stimulating when I had the energy.

A bonus of going through old travel photos is that it brought up a lot of great travel memories and experiences. Science tells us it’s not the things that make us happy, but it’s the rich experiences we’ve had in our lives.

I even managed to write a photography blog post, shared some photos in an online photography community I’m part of and watched a bunch of photography-related videos from my favourite photographer-Youtubers for inspiration.

4. Reading

When I wasn’t sleeping or when I felt I needed some mental stimulation, I read.

Mostly books and newsletter articles saved up in my Readwise Reader. I finished Slow Productivity by Cal Newport, and started and finished The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick.

Excellent books, highly recommend.

For me, reading a non-fiction book is both an active and passive activity.

I only read these books when I had the mental energy to make notes as I read and could writing down how the insights from the book can be applied to my situation. That to me is Step One of the active learning process

The Step Two is actually taking action on what I’ve learned, and that requires a lot more deep and active focus.

5. Consume courses and learn new skills

Like reading non-fiction books, going through a course is both a passive and active process.

It’s an active activity when I’m making notes, thinking about how I can apply the lessons to my situation or adding next action steps to my goals and projects that will move it forward.

It’s a passive activity when I’m simply watching the videos or reading the course content.

I’m a big fan of Just-In-Time learning and will generally only consume course when that learning can be directly applied to a goal or project I’m working on right now.

On days where I had some energy and light focus, I spent some of that time making progress on a few courses relevant to my goals.

I needed to keep my brain stimulated as I was getting so bored of constantly resting and sleeping during the day! These courses helped me gain further clarity around how to position myself as a Notion consultant in a crowded space. I had a lot of time to think, ideate, make notes and list down the relevant next actions.

Then once I’m fully recovered, I can go back and take action.

Wrap up

I know it should go without saying. When you’re unwell, the priority is to rest and recover. You shouldn’t feel guilty about being “unproductive”.

In fact, we should have built in some buffers in our work and life and have good systems in place so that if we suddenly become ill, things can be put on hold without terrible consequences.

We shouldn’t have jam-packed our weeks with back to back tasks or meetings that if we skipped a day or two everything falls apart. That would be working too close to the edge for calm.

Some of the things I did might seem like “productive work”. But for me, I needed some mental stimulation to help me recover. It was energising and helped me feel better during this down period.

I was just super mindful about not having a schedule. I simply stop or started things as I felt I needed to. Hour by hour, or day by day.

Approaching your work and ambitions with a Slow Productivity mindset means you’re think about progress and achieving your goals over the course of months and years. Not in days and weeks.

That approach allows you to take time off when you need to without guilt or pressure.

That’s it! Thanks for reading.

Do you agree that active activities are helpful (not a hindrance) when you’re in recovery mode? —I’d love to hear from you!

See you next week,

Janice CK

📌 Note Worthy

  1. Examining Post-Achievement with Khe Hy (59 minutes) 

    Our favourite Notioneers Marie Poulin and Ben Borowski started a podcast! In this episode, they explore how we can detach our identities from our achievements. And as a result seek contentment outside of traditional metrics for success and what it means to be accomplished.

    Check out the podcast episode

  2. Rest If You Must, But Don’t Quit (1 minute)

    A reminder of the importance of rest especially during hard times.

    Check it out the article

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