This is a guest post by Emily Wright, former writer at Boston.com and Massachusetts-based content creator.
It’s that critical point of a new year: mid-to-late January, when resolutions die off for so many of us and the reality of our everyday lives settle back in. According to U.S. News, 80% of us that set New Year’s resolutions will fail — which is a staggering statistic when you think about the amount of energy that goes into creating a resolution (or a plan) in the first place. If your resolution isn’t panning out, or if you’re simply trying to reset productivity because it’s halted, here are five tips to get on track by February. With any luck, these will stick with you through the year.
Give your year a theme
PureWow’s Carolyn Kuang-Chen Stanley jump-started my productivity with her piece on “Why You Should Make a New Year’s Theme.” Carolyn sold me when she wrote: “What makes the concept so much better than a resolution, in my mind, is that there’s no falling off the wagon … A theme is more forgiving: You might slip up, but every action is an opportunity to course correct and make sure you’re being true to your goals.” We’re all about resolutions if they motivate you, but a theme is another option for resetting productivity.
For example, if you have to stay late in the office to finish a project and miss your favorite yoga class, but your theme for the year is workplace excellence, you’ll be less likely to derail your work progress and more likely to enjoy the class the next time you go because you feel accomplished in another area of your life.
Start a journal
By now, most of you have probably tried some form of bullet journaling. If you’re like me, you probably tried your hand at calligraphy, realized that color-coding pages was harder than actually checking things off your to-do list, and scrapped the whole thing altogether. I get it. But that doesn’t mean you should cross journaling off your list for good.
Pam Thomas, a LifeHack contributor and the Chief Change Officer at What’s Within U, found one of the keys to being productive was journaling daily: “After about a week of journaling, I started to notice my mental clarity improve which ultimately lead to more productivity. And now after several years of using a writing journal, I look forward to it and if I skip a day, I really miss it.”
Thomas provides step-by-step guidance for finding the write — er, right — type of journal for you, and reminds readers that there’s no right or wrong way to keep a journal. The simple act of brain-dumping gives you increased space for new ideas, prioritization, and resets productivity.
Take a class with an expert
If setting yourself on a productivity “track” is something you’ve tried and not had success with in the past, maybe it’s time to bring in an expert. If you don’t want to spend hundreds of bucks on life coaches or gurus, you can simply subscribe to digital courses like those hosted on Skillshare or other digital platforms.
One particular class that caught my eye this month was Productivity for All, running January 23 – February 13 (just in time for you to sign up!) with a few different milestones, including creating a custom productivity system that works for you, managing attention in the digital age (stop the scroll!) and working smarter with your inbox. The theme of the workshop is work-related, with tools to “discover and implement new productivity strategies designed to help you work smarter and more effectively,” but these concepts could definitely be applied to personal lives, too.
Not ready to invest any money in a course yet? Check out Medium contributor Artem Zavyalov’s list of 10 Free Online Courses to Increase Your Productivity, which includes expert-led workshops on creating a perfect morning routine and honing time management skills.
Try an app or platform
Before you call me on it, I agree that staring at another screen may not be the best thing for increasing productivity — but these apps could actually be the best tools for crossing things off your list. The Hive Team put together the Ultimate Productivity Stack for 2018 and its contents hold true a year later. It’s broken down into easily digestible sections, including a whole section dedicated to collection tools — the first step in Hive’s Getting Things Done (GTD) Framework is to collect tasks, ideas and notes — and it’s packed with tips for analog note-takers and digital note fans.
If apps aren’t your thing and you’re a screentime minimalist, using the simple assistant tools that are already built into smartphones can help tremendously. I have a daily reminder set to take a water break at 11 AM, which ensures that I feel good (my body feels pretty crummy running purely on caffeine) and that I take a break and re-prioritize mid-morning. I also ask Siri to set reminders for me, create lists and schedule appointments.
Evaluate your standing meetings
Middle managers spend a staggering thirty-five percent of their time in meetings, according to Scott Dockweiler for the Muse. That adds up to 13 hours or 1.5 total work days each week. What’s even more staggering is that upper management can spend upwards of 50 percent of their time in meetings.
If you have any standing meetings on your calendar, take some time this January (or when it makes sense for your schedule) to go over the reason for those meetings and whether you think they’re actually necessary. Once you’ve figured out which meetings aren’t working, chat internally to see if there’s any way to make them work better for you or your team.
Have ideas on how to make your life more productive? Want to share what it takes to help your team fire on all cylinders? We would love to hear it in the comments below!