Many survivors who are either working through treatment or returning to work after time off are eager for their performance and productivity to remain exactly as they were before cancer. However, the side effects of treatment — including chemo brain — sometimes require survivors to make changes to their work habits so they can continue doing their job at the best possible level. We at CAC recommend experimenting with some essential, back-to-basics strategies such as getting organized, letting go of the tendency to multi-task and creating to-do lists. However, for some people, questions remain about how to implement these changes and make them stick.
A recent article in The New York Times titled “How to Make the Most of Your Workday” includes three excellent suggestions to keep in mind as you start integrating new work habits into your day. Here are some thoughts on how they can be adopted by cancer survivors in the workplace:
- Take small, incremental steps. While it’s perfectly human to wish for overnight transformation, the reality is that change takes time. Rather than creating an extensive list of every challenge you’d like to address and attempting to solve them all at once, try working on one at a time. For example, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and anxious and struggling to focus, maybe try integrating a stress-relief practice into your workday first, see if it makes a difference, and then move forward accordingly. Take time to figure out which “tricks” work best for you.
- Have regular check-ins with a support person. Talking about your goals and the changes you’re making in order to meet them can be a very important step in transitioning your plans from thought into action. Whether your support person is a trusted coworker or friend/family member, see if you can schedule weekly conversations about how things are going. They can help you stay motivated and accountable as you continue implementing changes, and can help you track progress over time.
- Be patient, kind and forgiving…with yourself. Fact: Slip-ups are part of any learning process. So, if/when you find yourself feeling like you’ve taken two steps back, don’t dwell on it. Rather, take a deep breath, let it go, and keep moving forward (and refer back to item one on this list).
To read the full NYT article (which includes many interesting tips for improving productivity), click here.
For more tips on working during and after treatment, check out the At Work section of our website, as well as the following CAC resources:
“Working with Chemo Brain”
“Work & Your Cancer Treatment”
Living and Working with Cancer Workbook
- Upcoming webinar: Join us for the Working Through Treatment session of our Balancing Work & Cancer Webinar Series, on Wednesday, October 11th. Registration is open now and can be accessed by clicking here.