It’s winter, and we’re in the midst of a worse-than-usual flu season — not to mention colds and other common winter bugs. So you’re sick, and your doctor recommends you rest, or you’re caring for a family member who’s sick. Too bad deadlines don’t take doctor’s notes.
If you’re lucky and you frontloaded your current project, and/or you have a generous deadline, you will be able to get through this and still get plenty of rest. Your thinking will likely not be as clear, so taking things slowly is necessary. Take extra time to do a thorough proofread, maybe even asking a colleague to take a look before you submit the index. Work from an editing checklist. Use a belt-and-suspenders approach.
Worst case, you have to contact your client and ask for an extension. If they are unable to give it to you — and sometimes even the most understanding client can’t do more for you than be sympathetic — you can find someone else to do the job. That’s where PI can help. With our network of partners and associates, we’re ideally set up to step in at any point in a project, and we can find the right indexer for the job, no matter what the deadline or subject. Just ask!
If you’re going to be able to power through, here’re some things I suggest.
Make it a routine
I’m not saying to get sick all the time. I’m saying to think about how you could think about what your work routine could look like on a sick day. What are your low-energy tasks? What absolutely must get done, no matter what? What can someone else do instead?
These questions are much easier to answer before you get sick, but they don’t have to be decided ahead of time.
Do what you can (aka what you have to)
Your index, sure. But also rest. If you didn’t already work out a quota of pages per day, do that now. Take breaks, rather than trying to work for several hours straight. Work when you have the most energy. Use your AIRs (adjustable indexing rules, a la Margie Towery) to reduce decision making.
Lots of indexers have a mobile setup, even if their regular workstation is in a home office. Now’s the time to pull out the laptop and curl up on the sofa (or even in bed).
Don’t do what you can’t (aka what you don’t have to)
Housework, email, meetings, admin. Close your email program, set your phone on Do Not Disturb, and order pizza. If you live with someone else, they might be able to help with more than the laundry. If you have urgent business tasks, and you trust them to help, maybe you could talk them through sending invoices or depositing checks.
Have a re-entry plan
This is especially key when you get better before your deadline, or when you have another project lined up and waiting.
After being sick for weeks on end over the holidays, the day I felt better, I felt so much better. I wanted to do all the things, but I also had a fresh reminder of the dangers of jumping in too quickly, and didn’t want to end up sick again. So I looked at my generic re-entry plan. It’s something I use for busy work weeks, but can be adapted for any disruptive situation.
You can work this out when you make your emergency plan, long before getting sick (like right after you read this!), but you can also count on spending a couple of hours after getting well figuring out what to do. It’s always disorienting switching tempos, so give yourself some transition time and an easy checklist to get back into the groove. That way, you don’t sit at your desk wondering what you should be doing, and bouncing from one task to another.
Read through a few pages of the manuscript without making entries, just to get it back into your head
Take notes. A few pages of thoughts about the metatopic, or some structural decisions can get you focused again. Even rambling about how distracted you are, or how sick you were, or all the things you wanted to do but didn’t can help you get all the junk out of your brain so you can get to what matters.
Move. Take a walk, do some gentle yoga. Get outside if you can.
Change your surroundings. Take your work somewhere else (again, if you can). Light a cheery candle in your office to celebrate being back at your desk and not buried under your covers in bed. Even changing the desktop background on your computer can help you really feel the fresh start.
Get well soon!