Iris Mini: Activity Scheduling

“Don’t think, just do" – Horace

Activity scheduling helps give structure to your day, which can be important in coping with cancer-related changes. It can also be used to generate positive, even joyful, experiences in the face of cancer. Scheduling pleasurable and active experiences can be used as one part of the “treatment” for cancer-related low mood or fatigue.

  • Consider scheduling activities that have helped you feel better in the past. Making a change in your behavior can impact your mood. If you are down or distressed, doing something pleasurable may help improve that feeling. It could be talking with a friend, walking at a park, or anything that has given you pleasure in the past that can be adapted to your abilities today.

  • Remember, the goal of activity scheduling does not involve judging or being critical of your current feeling. It is to balance that feeling with a more joyful one which can soothe or allow the hard feeling to pass.  

  • Commit to a schedule. You don't need to feel like doing the behavior (unless you are physically unable).

  • Consider planning activities ahead of time and when the time comes, match the intensity of your activities with your physical ability that day.

  • Make a “jar” (or list) of pleasurable activities. When you are emotionally overwhelmed, try picking a random selection to help you decide on a behavior or activity to try. Commit to that activity and once completed, see if it helped your mood. See the Iris Pleasurable Activity List for some ideas.

  • Get active. Moving your body can help with cancer-related fatigue and improve mood.

Consider these tips when you are planning activities:

  • Look for patterns. Consider whether your symptoms (mood or pain for example) follow any patterns over the day. Schedule relaxing or low intensity activities for times you tend to feel worse with more intense activities for times of day you tend to feel better.

  • Make modifications. You may need to modify activities to match your physical symptoms. While it can be frustrating to change how you would normally do an activity, it is better to do a modified version than to not do it at all.

  • Get help. You may also need to ask for help from others to accomplish certain tasks. Again, while asking for help can be hard, it is better to get help so you can stay active rather than not doing the activity.

  • Be patient. You may not get to all your activities every day. Think about the time you spent on an activity rather than getting it done.

  • Be flexible. Some days are better than others, and this can be unpredictable. You may need to be flexible with your schedule.

Try this exercise:

If you want to plan structure for an entire day, consider balancing chores and fun.

  1. Start with a schedule or planner for the day and fill in any “must do” activities like medical appointments and self-care.

  2. Fill in activities around these from a “chores” list alternating with a “fun” list.

  3. Add additional chores and fun activities, alternating between them.

Use the table below to plan your daily schedule. Develop a schedule that will be meaningful and productive while addressing medical demands, chores, and joyful activities.

Good to Know

If you want to print and fill out the table below from your mobile device, tap the share icon (iPhone users) or the menu button (Android users) and select print. Note that your device must be connected to a wireless printer.