Predictably Unpredictable: Schedule Tips for the CDP

Scheduling tips for the chronic disease person (CDP)

The digital calendar has got to be one of the greatest inventions of current times. No joke…. I sync 37 calendars on my phone. Yeah. That was a 3. And a 7.  Let’s see…. there’s one for the hubs, three for the homeschooling…2 personal … 4 schedulemedical and countless ones for my job at church. And of course the blogging calendars. Chris says I need therapy. I’d have to agree on this one.

I just hate it when he’s right…

But the best of calendar savvy is not enough to tame the unpredictability of chronic disease (CD). You can’t tame that kind of stuff. In fact, the only thing you can count on with CD is….that you can’t count on it.  Trying to keep some sort of a schedule with CD is challenging, to say the least.

There are no cookie-cutter answers, but here are 3 tips I’ve discovered for successful scheduling for those of us with chronic disease.

1.  The only predictable thing about chronic is its unpredictability.

Accept that always being able to predict what you can achieve and when you can achieve it is not a realistic goal for the chronic disease person (CDP). This must be a mindset shift, especially for us loyal over-achievers, who pride ourselves on being a person others can count on.  But when you think about it, even the healthiest people are down on their game from time to time. An unexpected stomach bug, waking up with a fever – even heading to a meeting only to find a flat tire – 100% dependability 100% of the time on 100% of our days really isn’t achievable by anyone.  They call it emergencies. Toss CD in the mix, and this kind of unrealistic self requirement really is… well, unrealistic.

2.  Schedule cushions are your best friend.

I’ll admit it…I love to stay busy. Sitting still is not my default, not even a little. My love language is acts of service, so when people ask for help or want to take a spot on my calendar, I want to say “yes.” I really do. I enjoy helping other people and I like that they feel they can come to me for help. This is one of the hardest parts of being a CDP. 

Think DifferentBut with even the most nimble of scheduling and planning, the descent of “I can’t do this today” upon your day will collide with your well-prepared to-do list unannounced, unsolicited, and unwelcomed. Expect it. Know it’s coming. Prepare for it. CD just demands that we take a different approach to how we schedule our calendar. We must think differently now.

We could all learn a few lessons here, if we’re honest. But especially as a CD person, if you take a shoe-horn approach to scheduling your activities and commitments, you should not be surprised at cancellations and leaving others hanging, along with the frustration that accompanies this. On top of everything else – in fact, even before everything else – CDP’s must build in time for rest, and if we do it like we’re supposed to, it can be an hour or two each day, it adds up to 12-15 hours every week. That’s another part-time job! Yes, chronic disease really does take that much time. And that’s just rest time… it doesn’t include doctor visits, labwork, going by the pharmacy, etc. Being sick takes a lot of time.

So what to do???

8-ballThere’s no easy answer, and each person’s answer is different. A safe place to start is to build in cushions of time that help you both avoid the “gotcha’s” and gain some rest reprieves. Here are some tangibles:  Put at least 30 minutes in between your daily tasks. Don’t schedule more than 3 or 4 tasks in a day. Take a rest day every third day. Or whatever works for you, but do something that builds cushions in to your week. You’ll feel better, more in control and more in front of the 8-ball. 

And who doesn’t like to be on the right side of the 8-ball, yes ?

3.  You’re on a different journey now … and that needs to be okay.

I have to swallow hard on this one. There are no words for this particular part of chronic. When you’re operating at 70% capacity, you just can’t do what you used to do. And chances are, that’s okay with everyone except you. 

I’m reminded of a story Donnie Osmond tells. He talks about having stage fright when returning to the stage after several years. He was crushed by his fear, yet frustrated because he’d been in show business all his life. He shouldn’t have a stage fright problem. But he was a relentless over-achiever, perfectionist kind of guy and his wife knew this. So she told him, “Just go out there and do a B- performance. Don’t worry about an A performance. Because a B- to you is an A to everyone else. Just relax and have fun.” Best version of youHe went on to have a stellar performance in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat because he redefined what success had to be in his mind.

Chronic disease means a new “you.” And that’s okay. 

We overachievers could learn a lot from Donnie’s story in that our 100% is 120% for everyone else. So if we’re operating at 80%, then we’re really still at 100%.  (Did you get that math?) We have to learn to be happy with 80% because that’s what the good Lord has given us for this season.  

Lighten up…let’s get past the pride. No one expects us to do what we’ve always done. Except maybe us. Quite possibly, they think we’re crazy for putting this expectation on ourselves and question why in the world we don’t rest like we’re supposed to – ??  Many of them would probably love a chance to serve Jesus by helping us out, if we’d just quit robbing them of the opportunity with the I’ve-got-it-covered junk. Our kids would probably better learn how to develop a heart of service, if we’d just give them half a chance to learn it.

My friends…. I’m terrible at this. There’s just something in my stubborn, over-achiever mindset that brings persistence and grit to the table and doesn’t want to need help. But I’m really, really trying. Try with me.

Let it go. Give it up. Recalibrate. Let others serve Jesus by giving you some rest. If nothing else, set a good example for those who might be in your shoes one day and need to learn to let folks help out. Have you ever thought less of your friends because they needed help and you took them a meal one day? Or mowed their grass? Or folded their laundry??? Didn’t think so. Me neither.


Here are a few questions to ask when deciding whether or not something makes it on to your calendar or to-do list:


Is it necessary?


Is it something only I can do?


Is it something someone else could do?


Does it have an eternal consequence?


Do I even want to do it?


Is the timing right?


What will I not be doing in order to do it?

Just because something is a good thing to do doesn’t mean we get to take it on. We’ll have to say “no” to some good things in order to say “yes” to the best things.

Hang in there. Protect your time. Your body will thank you. And so will your family and friends.


Rock on, Rheumies, Rock on –

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