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Activity Adjustments for Lower Symptoms and Higher Productivity
Presented by Bruce Campbell

People in the self-help program report lower symptoms and greater productivity by changing how they are active: using short activity periods, spreading activity over longer periods of time, and switching among tasks of varying difficulty.

Short Activity Periods

Two short periods of work with a break in between can produce more and leave you feeling less symptomatic than the same amount of time expended in one block. 

One person reported on her sense of accomplishment, saying "Even though I have reduced the amount of time that I allow myself to do a task (kitchen 10 minutes, computer/reading 15-30 minutes), I am amazed at the end of the day how much I have actually done."

Another person reported on how she breaks activities into very small units. For example, she divides cleaning the bathroom into a number of tiny steps: getting out the cleaning things, wiping down the sink, bench and mirror individually, sweeping the floor, shaking out bathmats, wiping down the bathtub, and so on. 

Her approach is to do half of an activity at a time or to use an egg timer to keep to a time limit. For example, she might only wipe down the sink, then return later to do the taps and the bench around it. She will divide the time for dinner preparation into fifteen minutes blocks. She says, "I generally don't go for longer than half an hour with any activity, and the more strenuous it is the less time I spend on it." 
It is still possible to accomplish a lot even with very short activity periods, as shown by the experience of another person in the self-help program. This woman, who is severely limited because of CFS, was asked to translate two documents from Chinese into English. 

Through experimenting, she found she could work at her computer for only 15 minutes at a time before feeling ill. She decided to have four work periods a day of 15 minutes each for a total of one hour. She completed her translations in five months. Later, she was able to expand her work periods from four to eight a day.
Activity Shifting

Another strategy for getting more done is activity shifting. Some people use this idea to move from one type of activity to another, for example switching between physical, mental and social activities. 

Other people divide their activities into different categories of difficulty. They schedule only a certain number of the most taxing activities a day and make sure to switch frequently among different types. Here’s what one person does:
I divide activities into light, moderate and heavy, and then plan my day to alternate activities in the different categories. By pacing myself in this way, I can do more and minimize my symptoms. In fact, I’m amazed at all I can now do in a day.