One of the things I love about the first few weeks of the New Year is a chance to take a look at my day-to-day routine to make adjustments and to look at my workspace whether in the office or at home and to do some clean-up. Something about starting fresh just makes me feel more productive. If you struggle to be productive, first know it’s okay and know that you can’t expect to be more productive overnight.
Small adjustments can lead to more lasting changes, but it does take time and discipline. I struggle often at times with staying on task and even feeling motivated to complete a task, but I do from time to time to evaluate my workspace and my plan of action for the day. I’m sharing 5 ways to help guide you into leading a productive life in this New Year!
- Refresh or Readjust Your Dedicated Workspace
Studies have found that your workspace has a very large impact on how productive you are. As you work or create from home, there might be many obstacles hindering your ability to focus in your current workspace. Making small changes to your workspace can help you stay focused and keep you motivated. I must add that it is important to avoid the temptation to do all your work from the couch or bed. Up first is to reduce the clutter on your desk or counter. Doing so will help you save time looking for things. Also, keeping clutter can make you feel more stressed, so give it a clean and remove anything that is no longer being used.
Keep items on your desk that encourage a feeling of motivation or affirmation. Calendars, posters, whiteboards, and Post-its can help you stay organized and display the things that bring you joy. If you have a workspace in your home make sure it is in a place with minimal background action and noise.
Work/Life Balance – When it comes to working from home I like to make sure that I keep a healthy work-life balance. I have a lamp that I keep on my desk at home, and turn it on in the mornings when I sit down to work for the day at the end of the day which is 5, I turn my lamp off. Doing that helps me to shut down from “work-life”.
2. Take Breaks – Remember to take breaks! During this pandemic, every day can feel the same so it’s important to have as much personal time as you can. It really does help to step away from your screen because it can help you feel more refreshed and relaxed throughout the day. I do take a morning and afternoon break in addition to my lunch break. If you can take a walk or step outside during your break, it does help clear your mind, help develop new ideas, or get better clarity when it comes to working on something complex or making a decision.
3. Stay Active – I notice that I can stay more productive and more engaged with my work when I’m active by getting some fresh air outside. Staying indoors all day can be really bad for your mental health, and even going for a short walk can be a good change of scenery. I try to get my walk in first thing in the morning before I sit down to work, or go for a walk during my lunch break. Staying active can also help your immune system, which we all know is especially important during this pandemic, and just in general.
4. Take Care of Yourself – taking care of yourself, physically and mentally will not only help you stay healthy it will also make it easier to maintain a positive attitude and stick to a regular routine. When working from home on a regular basis, a key first step to staying productive is to act as if you were still heading out for a typical day. That means resisting the temptation to lounge in your PJs all day – which is hard especially during the cooler months. It’s always best to get up at the usual time, take a shower, and get dressed for the day. Practicing good self-care also means: eating regular and healthy meals, staying hydrated with water, exercising regularly, going outside for a little bit every day (while practicing appropriate social distancing), taking time to relax, and getting good sleep. Self-care means taking care of your mental health as well. Social distancing and self-quarantine can be isolating and lonely. Focus on how you’re feeling and your emotions and always remember that you’re not alone. Also, if you’re struggling in areas do not be afraid to reach out to your therapist or seek help. Another that I have started to do is scheduling and using my PTO (paid time off) every month. I send my days off for approval at the beginning of every month. It gives me something to look forward to, whether I actually have something to do on that day or not.
5. Plan Your Day/Flexible Schedule – If making lists and completing goals is your thing, outline them for the day. The keyword here is flexible. Create a schedule that is actually reasonable for your lifestyle. Be realistic about your tasks and if you feel like you’re being drained by the end of the day, try to space some things out.
An organized to-do list will keep you focused on the specific tasks you need to complete. And there’s an added bonus: checking items off the list always provides a great sense of accomplishment, right?
Bonus: Focus on the Positive – Perhaps the single biggest thing you can do to stay focused and productive is to maintain a positive outlook. Unfortunately, there can be bad or discouraging news all around us, which can also be the biggest challenge. So what can you do to stay happy and cheerful through the stress of the pandemic? Shut out the bad news. If tracking the daily headlines is making you anxious or upset, it’s OK to disconnect. I try to limit myself to the news to 1-2 times a week. Anything over that gives me too much anxiety. This will go a long way toward helping you be mindful of staying positive. Recognize and acknowledge your feelings, even as they change from day to day or hour to hour. As the world around us changes that seems like lightning speed, it’s natural for us all to grieve for the things we are missing.
Give yourself and those around you permission to be human and to extend grace. This is not the time to pursue or expect perfection. And realize that everyone else is making mistakes as well – we are literally all in this together.
Find the silver lining every day. When you first wake up, spend a few minutes meditating, reciting affirmations, or thinking of the positive things that will happen on that day. Before you go to bed each night, make a mental list (or write down) of the good things that happened to you that day.
I hope and pray that at least one of these tips helps you lead a more productive life. It takes time to find what works best for you, so if something doesn’t work, adjust and try again. I believe in you! Here’s to a great year ahead!