Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Time Management for the Small Jewelry Business owner with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain

Running a small jewelry business when you're dealing with the issues that stem from having chronic pain from fibromyalgia, is sometimes quite the challenge. It doesn't help that most of us that deal with FMS are classic Type A personalities. When we're not flaring we always seem to be pushing ourselves to extreme limits to make up for lost time. Sometimes we can get away with weeks of non-stop scrambling on studio time, updating our online listings, blogging and googling plus keeping up with all the other non-art related facts of life like house and yard maintenance. 

But then it always happens that one day you'll type one word too much, lean over the drafting table just the wrong way or just wake up, right back in a major flare up that will sometimes last a month or better. Not only is it extremely painful to have a frozen shoulder, weak back, cramped muscles or a general flu-like feeling, it's also extremely frustrating to just have to stop all the projects you have on the table. You would think that after 8 years of dealing with these cycles that I would've learned to manage my time a bit better.

The trouble with FMS is that you do have some good periods, and it's easy to tell yourself that THIS time it will be different. But sooner or later you pay the price for that thought. There's a saying that if you do the same thing over and over you will never get a different outcome. How true is that?

So after my latest downtime I decided to take the bull by the horns and try to change things. Since my last bout involved a partially frozen shoulder I realized that I could not spend quite so much time typing online. Instead of trying to keep up with daily blogs on two sites, chatting on market forums and responding to a heavy email load I switched my schedule up. I decided that I could only spend up to two hours a day doing online work, except for Tuesdays and Fridays, when I would do regular blogs, update listings, catch up on forums and correspondence. I figured this would give me a lot more studio time.

I've been doing this for over a month now, and it has helped me to heal and taken a lot of the pressure off...and we know that stress is the biggest factor leading to flare ups. But for some reason I was not improving my studio time. I'd jump on the computer first thing in the morning and then just drag myself through the rest of the day, barely accomplishing anything. But then a good friend of mine, Karen Casey-Smith , sent me a blog excerpt that she'd read saying that if you want to fail at creating then be sure to start your day off by jumping right online and setting yourself up to be a 'responder' instead of a 'creative starter' the rest of the day. 

Wow! That really struck a chord with me. So I decided that from then on I would only turn the computer on in the morning to check for orders. I ignore everything else until the afternoon's two hour session and what a COMPLETE difference it has made in my work days. I find that instead of sitting with my second cup of coffee at the puter I now sit on the couch with it and my studio space is directly in my line of eyesight. I start thinking about what I'm going to do with my day. The next thing you know I am working away and I am extremely happy with my progress lately. 

That is not all I do to be more productive... I change tasks every couple hours and make sure I get up and move around as close to hourly as I can. Every other day I do gentle arm stretch exercises, and then I do a simple 10 wall pushups and 10 lunges. It's sure not much of a workout but it's helping my core muscles which have really been weakened. I can't walk for any long distances due to some back issues but I do get out and walk the perimeter of our large uphill back yard a few times, and if the weather is bad, I walk from room to room in the house several times a day. 

I take SAM-e to keep my moods from swinging and I've recently started taking MSM (on the recommendation of Karen again) for my connective tissue health. I still take advil in the morning but I have noticed that I'm seeing some improvement in my joint areas. I'm not quite sure how the MSM is different but glucosomine and Celebrex have not been helpful in the past. Years ago I was on anti-depressants and pain meds but they did more harm than good and I think I do much better with natural supplements that my body already produces.

So, while this is no guarantee that I'll never have another flare up, it's helped me to manage my working time with good results. Hopefully when I do flare it will be for a shorter duration in future and my scheduling will allow me to keep working. I hope this is of some help to those with chronic pain issues. While there's no doubt it sucks to have to live with something like this, it helps to try and remember just how sweet the good days can be and make the most of them with a good plan for the present. 



  1. This caught my attention right off Sue. I'm glad that you wrote it! I've been really struggling with time management lately and just trying to nail down what I want and what I can do and what I need to do with my energy levels . . . it's *tough* to figure out. I feel like I'm in a jungle maze sometimes-- blindly hacking my way through . . . Anyway, the first things first sounds reasonable. Very reasonable and I think I'll give it a try too. Starting tomorrow, since today's already shot;)

  2. Sarah, I'm really happy if it was helpful...I always am amazed at how productive you are with all you do and hate to know you're struggling. This seriously was the best piece of advice I've received in a long time. Thanks for responding :)

  3. Sue, I found your post very interesting and I'm glad you are as positive as you are. I don't have FMS but have some issues walking due to neuropathy as a result of chemo. Anyhow, I sometimes just give in to it even though I know I should not. Your post will help to keep me going as I know I should. Thanks

  4. thank you for commenting, Bev...it's a challenge sometimes to find the good side of things like this...but the secret is neither to try and overpower it or give in to it, but learn to work within the framework we have. Here's to both of us conquering and rising above :)

  5. Your Baby Brudder BrucieMay 5, 2009 at 2:28 PM

    Sue, You never cease to amaze me with the talent and drive you have. You have a "Gift from God" and you're utilizing it to the best of your ability as far as I'm concerned.
    I am proud to be a part of the same family. Now, send some of that talent my way....lol.

    Love ya, Bruce

  6. thanks, baby brudder! I hear tell that you take some fantastic photographs...I'll send a little extra drive your way and let's see what you can do with it!
    love ya too :)

  7. Oh, my, Sue! I had no idea you suffered from chronic pain like that. You are an amazing woman, and I'm glad that you are healing and improving your creativity in the studio.

  8. Aww, thanks Mallory...hope I didn't make it sound too pitiful lol

  9. Sue, I didn't know you suffered from FMS. What an amazing woman you are, with such a soaring spirit!

    I'm going to take Karen's advice too and not begin my day as 'responder' and instead begin it as creatively as I can. Thank you!

  10. Hey, Diana thanks...I think there's a lot of amazing people out there with much heavier stuff to deal with than I have :) It really does help to start the day the way...I've not gotten a LOT done today, but I have been working most of the morning in my studio :)

  11. ohhhh you have that snake on the table....eeek! Sounds like you have made a good plan. I agree, if I sit down at the computer first thing, I never seem to get away.

  12. Well, better than a spider! :D thanks for commenting, Rose :)


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