For much of the country, winter can be a challenging time. Decreased light, more time spent indoors, the horrible experience of waking up in the dark and ending work in the dark—it can be tough. This winter may be especially challenging, with the pandemic forcing us into isolation and away from our favorite cozy coffee shops and bookstores.
As humans, our energy naturally ebbs and flows throughout our lives and throughout the seasons. This can be difficult for those of us with high expectations. We don’t like to accept that sometimes, we need sleep, time alone, or support. But these things are inevitable, pandemic or not, and fighting against them isn’t an effective use of our energy. We need to learn to roll with our energy cycles, not against them.
Here are four tips to help you stay on track with your goals while not falling out of tune with your needs.
Make short term commitments
At the start of every week, make a list of all the things you want to accomplish. Then break each item out into categories:
- Start with “the one thing”—the task you commit to complete above all others.
- Then, break it into time-intensive tasks that you know will take a while.
- Next, think about your quick wins, the things you know you can get done quickly.
- Finally, think about the items that can wait till later and put them in your backlog.
This will help you stay on top of the stuff that matters most while also keeping things from slipping through the cracks. It’ll provide you with a sense of accomplishment and enable you to make clear decisions around how you spend your time each day. In short, it’ll help your days stay clear of busywork and give you direction to aim your energy most effectively and efficiently.
Keep small promises
Each of us has different needs, challenges, and sticking points. Try making some small, easily accomplishable promises to yourself. Pick something that can have a high impact on your mood but doesn’t take too much time. A ten-minute walk in the middle of the day, for instance. Or fifteen minutes to journal in the morning before work.
Keeping small promises to yourself helps you gain a sense of control and emotional wellbeing. It will help you remove opportunities to berate yourself for not being perfect by providing you something to point to and say, “At least I did this for myself today.”
Redefine what productivity means
In our society, we often put more value on “productivity” than wellbeing. We get down on ourselves for not doing enough, working hard enough, or growing fast enough. But the reality is that like our energy, our productivity ebbs and flows over time. We may have times of intense growth followed by quieter, more restful periods. That’s normal.
However, we get into trouble when we place greater value on the “more productive” periods than the restful ones. If we measure our success against those times in our lives that we have been the most productive, we’ll always fall short of our expectations. Growth spurts and times of increased productivity are great, but they aren’t necessarily what leads to success.
Approach your life holistically
Allowing yourself the grace to move between these stages in your life and placing value on all of them is the key to both happiness and productivity. To have growth, you need to have rest. Remember, your success, whether it’s emotional, financial, or occupational, is your responsibility. Take the steps you need, big or small, to ensure you’re supporting yourself as you expand and contract within your life.
Photo by Alexandr Ivanov
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