Let’s face it, February is the first month of the working year, especially for those of us who eschew the traditional 9 to 5. January is a mish-mash of work and holiday and family and long weekends. For those of us who telecommute, work from home, own a small business or consult, January is the reason we do what we do. We run the payroll from the beach or call clients poolside. We fit work around the kids. We catch up where we can. There’s no clocking on. As long as the work gets done, we’re sweet.
But February is here. The kids are back at school and you know it’s time to shake off the casual January vibe. It’s time to saddle up for a high performance, productive 2019.
Here are 5 psychologist-recommended tips to get you started:
Don’t wait for motivation. Just start. It’s tempting to ease yourself back into work, waiting for motivation to kick back in, but motivation is the result of action, not the cause. If you passively wait for motivation you’ll wait a long time. Take small but determined steps towards your goals for this year. Dig out the list titled, ‘My plans for 2019.’ If you haven’t written that plan yet, start with that. Take the first small step, follow it with the second and motivation will find you.
Work in Sprints and Breaks. Do you go hard for the first weeks of the year then fizzle out? Human beings are not designed to focus on a single task for hours on end, especially seated at a desk. It's not good for our health and it's hopeless for productivity. Work hard for 45 minutes to and hour then get up and move! Do something different. Take a break. Give your brain a chance to recharge and then get back to it. Sustain your productivity over the longer term by working in sprints and breaks, not slogging it out.
Don’t procrastinate. Your future self will thank you for it. We all avoid difficult or unpleasant tasks. The human brain values immediate rewards more than anything you can offer your future self - a phenomenon psychologists call ‘time inconsistency.’ To overcome the tendency to procrastinate over the difficult, uncomfortable or boring tasks, break them down into smaller chunks and schedule time to complete them, preferably early in your day. You’ll feel better once it’s done and free up valuable brain space for the other important tasks.
Location Matters. Environmental psychologists explore the interplay between humans and our surroundings. It’s a relatively new field but it reveals fascinating facts about how our work location affects the way we feel, our well being and our productivity. Pay attention to where you work at your best. This might differ for different tasks. The joy of coworking spaces like Platypus is that you can move about and make use of the different spaces. Sit on the lounge with a notebook to get creative. Wander into a meeting room for phone calls. Meet someone new over coffee in the kitchen or knuckle down to finish that report at your desk. Experiment with what works best for you and remember that one location doesn’t fit all tasks.
Focus Right Here, Right Now. Your big plans for 2019 are exciting but you might also be feeling overwhelmed. ‘How will I ever get this all done?’ ‘There’s so much to do!’ ‘Where do I start?’ The emotional impact of viewing the year as a whole can be stress, anxiety and overwhelm followed by procrastination and guilt. Worry less about tomorrow and beyond. Start small and focus on the tasks you can do right now. You’ll never do it all in one go. Success is the cumulative effect of many small steps over time.