Get Things Done: Tips for Daily Tasks

Rheumatoid arthritis doesn't have to change your "to do" list. Some simple fixes can make it easier to get things done.

Streamline Your Approach

Have a plan. When you have RA, you may have less energy. So it helps to be well organized. If you want to get things done tomorrow, plan how you'll do it now. Keep your goals realistic, and don't forget to build in breaks.

Save your energy. What slows you down? Putting on your shoes? Getting ready in the morning? Once you know the things that get you stuck, you can come up with ways to make them easier.

Divide up the day. Spend 30 minutes on a task, then do something else. Focusing too much on one thing could leave you feeling achy and fatigued afterward. If you switch things up, you'll get more done.

Pace yourself -- especially on good days. Even if you wake up feeling like you can do anything, squeezing in too much can backfire. If you overdo it -- going on a hike or gardening all afternoon -- your fatigue the next day could set you back. Tackle a high-energy task or two in the morning, take a nap at lunchtime, and do lighter work in the afternoon.

Easy Cooking

Use a stool. Don't stand while you cook. Sit and rest. You can wash dishes from a stool, too.

Cook simpler meals. Stick with easy recipes, especially after work. Use shortcuts like pre-cut vegetables. Save dishes with lots of steps for weekends or nights when a family member can help. Or split up the cooking over 2 days.

Get new kitchenware. The right kitchen tools will speed up dinner prep and spare your joints. Think about buying some lightweight pots and pans and spoons and spatulas with thick, easy-to-grip handles.

Bathing and Dressing

Go gadget shopping. Think about what's hard or painful in the bathroom, and pick up a few aids to help out. Is it hard to squeeze out toothpaste? Look for an automatic dispenser. Do you have hip pain? A raised toilet seat can be much more comfortable. Wide-handled toothbrushes and hairbrushes, grab bars, and soap in pump bottles can make life easier. An occupational therapist can help you with the tasks of daily life.


Use a shower chair. Even if you think you don't really need one, it can help you relax while you bathe without putting more stress on your joints. A showerhead that you can adjust or hold in your hand can help, too.

Change your wardrobe. Make getting dressed smoother by choosing clothes that are easier to put on, or adapt the clothes you already have. Bigger buttons, Velcro fasteners, elastic shoelaces, and rings for zipper pulls can make it faster to dress. So can tools like a long-handled shoehorn.

Cleaning, Gardening, & More

Lift carefully. Use both hands when you pick up a gallon of milk or a jug of laundry detergent. Also, slide a heavy object instead of lifting it when possible. Get laundry baskets with wheels, too.

Don't lug cleaning supplies up and down the stairs. Keep a stocked supply closet on each floor. Instead of carrying your vacuum, think about a lightweight rechargeable vacuum for each floor, too.

Garden without pain. Instead of crouching or kneeling on the ground, sit on a low stool while you're working outside. Some benches have wheels that make them easier to move. Try working on raised beds instead of on the ground. Also, look for ergonomic garden tools that are easier to use.

Shop online. It’s easier and faster than trekking to the mall. Save your energy for the things you enjoy doing. If using a keyboard hurts, consider getting voice recognition software to do your online buying.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on September 13, 2018



Arthritis Foundation: "11 Shortcuts to a Clean House."

Lenore Frost, PhD, OTR/L, CHT, clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT.

M. Elaine Husmi, MD, MPH, vice chair of rheumatology; director, Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Center, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio.

Darlene Lee, NP, practice manager, rheumatology clinic, University of California, San Francisco.

Jane McCabe, MS, OTR/L, CAPS, occupational therapist, certified aging-in-place specialist, Laguna Hills, CA.

Victoria Ruffing, RN, program manager, Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

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