Being Your Most Productive Self in the New Year
Updated: Dec 30, 2021
The new year begins and feelings of excitement and expectation fill the air. Goals are set and hefty resolutions are made. We begin to see new opportunities for ourselves and hope for all the possibilities of success and positive change.
During the month of January, our motivation levels are high and we feel like we can achieve anything if we just stick to our plan.
Then February hits. We feel less motivated. We look at our goals and plans for the year and begin to feel the weight of everything that needs to be accomplished to achieve our desired outcomes.
This may be a familiar pattern for many of us at the start of the year. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Today we are going to begin breaking this cycle by implementing just a few tips to help you be your most productive self in the new year.
As a productivity coach and business owner, being and feeling productive is one of my favorite things. It is exhilarating to know that I have completed everything that needs to be accomplished to further my goals. It is just as exhilarating to know that I can stop working and relax because I completed what I set out to do.
There are many ways to create a more productive workflow, but today we are going to focus on three simple ways to reach a higher level of productivity:
Work During Your Prime Time
Organize Your Action Items
Work During Your Prime Time:
“Prime Time” is a term that refers to the time of day you know you are the most focused and motivated. Working during your prime time helps you be very intentional with your tasks and also ensures that you are working from a focused mindset.
If you are unsure of when your prime time happens, try working during different times of the day and take notice of how you feel, how distracted you are, and how motivated you are to get things done. For some people, their prime time is right when they get up in the morning before anyone else in the house is awake. For others, their prime time is later in the evening after the kids have gone to bed. For others, their prime time happens after their cup of coffee and a good breakfast. Take the time to figure out when your best work gets done and make a boundary for yourself and others regarding that time.
Making a boundary around your prime time is just as important as knowing when your prime time happens. Creating boundaries for ourselves and others means your prime time will be respected and ultimately used well.
Let’s say you have not developed the habit of getting up early in the morning, but you know that your best work and focus happens in the morning. You can create a boundary for yourself by setting back the time you go to sleep the night before so you can get up earlier.
Creating a boundary for others may look like not setting up any appointments, calls, or activities during your prime time hours. This means having a strict schedule for yourself and being willing to let others know that you are not available during this time.
After you find your prime time of the day, you can apply this same principle to days of the week, and even work environments. If there is a day of the week that you know you are consistently less productive, don’t schedule large tasks on that day. If you have a hard time concentrating when working at home, find a shared workspace in town you can use.
Takeaway: Find your prime time of the day. Make boundaries around that time so you can be sure to use it efficiently. Apply the prime time principle to days of the week and work locations.
Organize Your Action Items:
Action items, or tasks, though simple in nature, tend to be quite tricky to organize effectively. That is why there are plenty of detailed programs and software you can use to aid you in this process.
I believe that task organization depends on what works best for you as an individual. Therefore, organizing your action items really comes down to learning how you work best.
For example, maybe you retain information better by writing something down on a piece of paper, and physically having that paper handy while you are completing a task. If this is the case, take 10 minutes every morning, or the evening before, to create a hand-written task list for yourself. Make sure the list lives in a place you can see it and access it easily for motivation and reminders.
Maybe you prefer to break down your action items into categories so you have a big picture view. If this is something you prefer, create a document where your categories are the headers, and fill in action items under each category with bullet points. This will keep your categories organized and will also help you have a realistic perspective of what you can complete in a single day or week.
Maybe you work best with a straight forward list. Maybe you work best using a calendar on your phone or computer. Whatever way you like to work with tasks and action items, do it! Even if it takes you 20 extra minutes a day to organize this process, it is worth it.
If you do not know what your best way of working with tasks and action items is, take the time to experiment with different processes. Try making a straight forward list one week, try categories the next week, try a software or calendar app the following week. You will know when you have found the right method when you start feeling excited and motivated about your action items versus feeling overwhelmed and stuck.
Two tips for organizing action items:
Create action item lists that are daily or weekly. Do not create action item lists that go beyond a week’s worth of work. I personally divide my action items into days of the week. Any action items I have beyond my current week, I organize in a separate list that is saved for the following week. This process will help you feel less overwhelmed and will keep your action items organized and easy to access.
Be willing to change your process. I believe that we as humans are always changing and evolving, which means our processes have to change and evolve with us. Be open to changing your organization processes as you move through different stages in life. Maybe the list method has worked for you for five years, but now you are feeling stuck. Try something new! I recently went through this process myself with my task organization. My schedule shifted dramatically so I needed to find a new way to organize my action items that worked with my current schedule and life stage. After shifting my task organization process I was able to jump right back into my structured work day even though I was working with a new schedule.
Takeaway: Find the organization process that works best for YOU. Take the time during your day or week to implement that process. Create action item lists that are daily or weekly. Be willing to change your process if needed.
Being realistic with ourselves and what we can accomplish in a given time period is one of the best ways to raise productivity levels. Though this may seem strange, as being realistic many times means cutting things out of our to-do lists, being realistic with ourselves promotes a higher level of focus, a lower level of procrastination, and a feeling of accomplishment when tasks are completed.
Being realistic with our time means being honest with ourselves about our weekly commitments, our desired time off, and the time we need to devote to our relationships and self-care.
What does being realistic with yourself and your work mean to you? Maybe it means truly recognizing that on Wednesdays you actually only have four hours of focused work time, though you always plan for eight hours. Maybe it means understanding that you won’t be able to get extra work done on the weekends because it is too distracting to work at home when your family is around. Maybe it is knowing that working in the evening is not your prime time, and you need to stop scheduling extra tasks during that time of day.
Being realistic is being honest with yourself. As you are finding your prime time and working on organizing your action items, create these process in complete honesty.
I recommend always checking your action items and tasks twice. As you look at each item, think about how many minutes or hours you believe that item will take. You can either write this time down or not, that is up to you and your process. Whether your write down the time frame for each item or not, use this exercise as a way to gauge how much time your tasks will take, versus how much time you have to work on them. If the times do not match up, adjust your action items or sacrifice something else in your schedule to free up more time.
Takeaway: Being realistic with our time means being honest with ourselves about our weekly commitments and desires. Check your action items twice and assign a time frame to each item. This will give you a more realistic understanding of how much you can accomplish each day and week.
As you continue to work on increasing your productivity, feel free to refer back to this article as a quick refresher. Start implementing these processes one at a time. Be patient with yourself. Let yourself experiment, try, and fail in order to find what works best for you. Even if you only implemented one of the three processes we covered, your productivity will increase.
Cheers to being our most productive selves in the new year!
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