As the Starks of Winterfell always say: “Winter is coming.” And after two years of social distancing and more work going remote, finding motivation is more challenging than ever. Get ahead of the foreboding colder months and threat of seasonal affective disorder.
Consider implementing these 10 productivity tactics into your lifestyle and show winter who’s boss.
1. Identify Your Goals Now
It’s impossible to achieve your goals without knowing what they are. Take time to sit with yourself and consider what it is you want to achieve. Your goal may be achievable during the winter season, or you may be able to make significant headway toward it.
No matter your timeline, identify no more than three goals to pursue at any one time. More than three can be difficult to manage and could result in overwhelm instead of momentum. Write out your goals and put them somewhere you see them regularly. Viewing your goals daily can imprint them in your mind and will help influence your daily actions.
2. Make Way for Motivation
A cluttered mind and a cluttered home are both a hindrance to your progress. Start with a clean slate in these core areas.
For your mind, forgive yourself for not progressing on your goals more than you have by this point. Now is the time for action, not regret. Adopt a mindfulness practice of five minutes of silence or meditation each morning. Eliminate the routine of social media and news check-ins upon waking. Spend time with yourself first.
With regard to your home, declutter and prep it for productivity. Toss piled-up paper and create a system to process incoming paper before it becomes problematic. Spend a day cleaning your home so it’s not a distraction while you work on your goals.
3. Upgrade Your Workspace
The winter season often means spending more time indoors. And if you’re not rearranging or upgrading your space, you’re likely to get bored. Consider things like lighting or your furniture arrangement. By adding an extra lamp and moving your desk to the other side of the room, you can breathe new life into your workspace.
Another aspect to consider is the current state of your Wi-Fi. We rely heavily on Wi-Fi for both professional and personal use, so making it up to par is crucial for staying motivated. By ensuring the quality of your Wi-Fi connectivity, you can better research, plan for, and execute your goals, both on the clock and not.
4. Set Achievable Milestones
Lofty goals are fantastic — they often motivate us to get started on a massive endeavor in the first place. However, if your goal is too large, it may be daunting to the point that it causes paralysis. Break down your goal into achievable chunks, and you’ll gain momentum as you surpass each one.
For example, if your goal is to write your first novel, the 80,000-word standard could be overwhelming. Instead of just sitting down to write and checking your word count every hour, start with an outline. Then, set a daily word count goal and give yourself permission to stop once you hit it. Using this approach, your book will be done in 3 months with your consistent effort. Setting an achievable goal can help keep you motivated and feeling successful daily.
5. Say ‘No’
It’s often our first word we learn as infants, but as adults it can be hard to utter. Take this insular season as your chance to become powerful with the word no. Setting boundaries around your time is crucial to having enough to pursue your own goals. If anything comes your way that is not essential, feel empowered to simply say no.
While you are setting these healthy boundaries, resist the urge to explain the why behind your no. Remember, your time is yours to dictate. Simply say, “No, thank you for thinking of me, and I hope you have a great time” when you decline an invitation.
Save your precious time for the events and activities that are truly meaningful to you and your relationships.
6. Gamify Your Goals
If you struggle with focus and attention, gamifying your goals is a great strategy to trick yourself into staying productive. You don’t have to be a hard-core gamer to have this tactic work for you. Set a timer as a race-the-clock motivator for tasks that otherwise have an open timeline.
With no assigned deadline on tasks that are challenging, it can be hard to make progress without external factors. Simulate this effect by challenging yourself to complete portions of the task within a compressed period. You’ll get a dopamine rush, and your project will be that much closer to completion.
7. Create Accountability
With certain goals, often the only motivator you have is yourself. Create accountability by sharing your goal with someone you trust and empower them to check in on your progress. Let them know of your target milestones, and set a coffee date around that milestone.
Having someone in your corner is encouraging, but it can also motivate you to get things done in time. If you have a work project, offer to provide your supervisor with updates at self-imposed milestones. They’ll expect updates at those touchpoints and will be impressed by your professionalism and initiative-taking approach.
8. Focus on Single-Tasking
For years, we’d been told a lie about doing all the things, all the time. Finally, we’re coming to realize that multitasking is not the way to get good work done. When you multitask, you aren’t focusing your full attention on anything. It’s unlikely you’re producing high-quality work on any of your deliverables.
Instead, focus on single-tasking — that is, just do one thing at a time. Focus all of your effort into your one task so you can do your highest and best work. Break down your goal into specific tasks and check them off as you go. You can use this approach in work and life to improve your productivity and focus.
9. Adopt a Mantra — and Believe In It
If you haven’t heard it already, here it is now — your thoughts become your actions. If you know that you’ve always wanted to do something but constantly question your ability, you’re destined to fail. Instead, speak your goals into fruition.
If you want to be a highly paid consultant, develop a mantra that you speak to yourself upon waking. For example, you may say, “I’m an incredibly talented and desirable consultant who is paid handsomely for my work.” It may feel silly at first to utter these words, but the brain works in mysterious ways. Positive thoughts influence positive results.
10. Prioritize Movement, Rest, and Relaxation
Humans may be superheroes, but we can’t run on empty. While you’re working to achieve your goals, you must take care of your body and mind.
Resist the urge to over-schedule yourself with purposeful work. Instead, prioritize movement, rest, and relaxation along with other essentials like eating a healthy diet.
The body and mind can only do their best work if they’re well-nourished and rested. Aim for blocks of technology-free time, ample stretching, and seven hours of sleep so you’ll be at your best. Take care of your body and mind, and they will take care of you.
Overcoming the Winter Slowdown
Even in temperate climates, winter often brings reduced temperatures as well as the stress of the holidays. You may work in an environment where fourth-quarter performance makes or breaks your year-end chance at a raise. You’ll want to put forth your best effort to propel your productivity forward.
If your motivation burns out once the first leaf falls, though, it’s time to adjust your approach. These 10 tips may initially cause you discomfort, as changes often do. But to keep yourself motivated, especially in the winter months, you’ve got to push through it. Before you know it, the snow will thaw, and spring will be there. By then, you’ll be a pro at motivating yourself during the toughest of months, and you’ll be ready for anything.