There are certainly varying degrees of being sick and if you are sick with something like the flu or strep throat or some horribly contagious flesh-eating disease, please stay home and get better before dragging into the office, not doing anyting production (including getting better), and risking getting others sick.
However, if you have a cold that you don't feel justifies staying home or are just stuck in the middle of allergy season, you probably feel obligated to go into work (or get regular tasks done around the house if you stay at home) without letting your compromised immune system defeat you.
But usually - you just aren't at the top of your game.
Here is a list of things you can do to be productive even when you aren't feeling top-notch:
- Clean off your desk. Do you have a corner that keeps collecting things and you just never seem to reach the bottom of that pile? Are you always looking for things and need a better system of organization? Have you been wanting to go through that junk drawer at home (or work) but always seem to busy to do it? These small tasks can be tackled, accomplished in a relatively short time, and if you don't "do your best work" you don't have the same consequences as really messing up an important report you might have otherwise worked on.
- Clean out your email. Is your inbox (at work or home) excessively full? Unless you regularly visit and purge your messages, you probably have a lot of messages that you don't need. How to get started? Find a chain of replies back and forth and delete all but the newest one (as long as no one broke the chain). Find those about projects or events that are past and hold no information that will need to be revisited. Delete those personal emails out of your work inbox. Your server, IT people, or just your home computer, will love it if you will go through and delete some of them.
- Learning. Read up on something pertaining to your job. Whether it is a newsletter pertaining to your profession, a financial report for your business that you haven't had a chance to look at, a motivational book to help you be a better leader/mother/wife/friend, or some information on an area where you need to expand your knowledge, reading is a great task that you never feel you have time for but would be great while you aren't feeling super productive.
- Complete those administrative tasks. You know, the simple paperwork you have neglected to do because bigger things always come up. Right now while you don't feel like doing those bigger things, work on the small ones. File some paperwork, update the charts/graphs on the bulletin board, send out those emails you've been meaning to. Scan documents, make file copies, shred those confidential papers you have piled up. If you're at home, organize your photo files - I know you've been meaning to do that forever.
- Make new plans. If you need time to sit and brainstorm, that time is sitting in front of you right now. Now if you are heavily medicated, you may not have the clearest train of thought at the moment, so this wouldn't be for you. But if you are just tired and need to slow down to feel better, start planning. Think of how to improve your tasks, your department, your home. Think about your child's next birthday party plans. Pull out your checkbook, a pen, and some paper and re-evaluate the family budget. Make a shopping list of things you always forget when faced with making a shopping list. Once you are feeling better, get moving on these new schemes!
- Do get some rest. The best way to feel productive tomorrow is get some rest today. So although you might feel you can really knock everything out, take it easy until you are back to full strength.