We like to be productive individuals. When circumstances change for us through life events, such as; a brain injury or chronic pain – our productivity is affected. Our desired outcome of completing tasks or contributing to the household or at work is impacted. Our go to method of pushing through does not work well. We may get a specific task completed and then be unable to do anything for several days.
I coach people regularly on how to pace themselves to have consistent productivity. The level of productivity may be different; however, the ability to perform consistently increases the number and amount of activities that can be engaged and completed.
We start with assessing where a person is at using a pain/energy/activity assessment chart. For at least a week on a daily basis an individual records their level of energy with High – lots of energy at a 10 and Low energy – exhaustion at a 1; their level of pain High, lots of pain and intense at a 10 and Low pain, none to very minimal at a 1; and what activity they are doing and the duration. Then they reassess and record the levels of pain and energy following the activity. We are looking for the variation in pain and energy levels. We look at what kind of activities and how long they were engaged in them. We are looking for the current pattern and overall level of productivity.
Next we have discussion on pacing. For what length of time can an activity be maintained with fairly consistent energy level and lesser pain? Prior to escalating pain and a significant drop in energy, schedule a break. We need to decide what kind of break – what kind of rest period is needed and how long. The individual practices taking breaks prior to reaching their limits – rest, restore and then re-engage. That way they do not push themselves to overload and can re-engage. This creates a pattern of greater consistency of performance. They increase the probability of achieving their desired outcome of greater productivity. At no time is the goal maximum, former high level output the expected result. This is a journey to rediscover what they can do.
Different factors can impact pain and energy levels. There is a need to assess regularly. Does the pacing activity pattern need to be adjusted?
Not only does the pacing, activity and recovery pattern need to be developed, but also prioritization can assist. What is most important? What can be delegated? What can be eliminated? Where can help be asked for? What needs to be done frequently? What can be done over time? What reserves are needed to handle the unplanned and spontaneous activities in our lives?
The process of pacing involves knowing our physical, mental (cognitive) and emotional limits. Each of these requires energy. Each of these can create an experience of pain. Recognizing where we experience drains on our energy and stimuli that increases pain helps us to modify the “how to”, to engage in those experiences.
Too much stimulus or specific kinds of stimulus (light, noise, crowds, stress) can drain the energy resources or exacerbate the pain. Identifying and adjusting the interaction with stimuli is part of pacing.
A simple starting point to pacing is taking a breath, pausing, and making a choice: is this activity, engagement, response going to produce a desired outcome? The desired outcome involves the person’s ability to perform consistently as well as the results for the specific task.
Habits, attitudes, how we perceive ourselves are assessed and adjusted for a pacing pattern to provide the means to the desired outcome.
Any time we make changes in our lives it takes practice to move forward on the path of mastery.
Coaching can assist by providing specific tools to develop the desired skill set or practice to achieve the desired outcome. Coaching is a learning process, an accountability process, and a celebration process. Coaching is a tool to increase desired outcomes with our lives.