Winter is coming. As it gets darker and colder, the desire to snuggle up on your couch in your well-worn yoga pants and sweatshirt is stronger than it was at the start of the pandemic.
This is where the pandemic blues merge with the winter blues and you watch your motivation and productivity plummet with the temperature.
It’s time to stoke the fire.
Here are four things you can do to combat the winter doldrums and stay productive this winter.
Use a 15-minute list
When the last thing you want to do on a cold winter morning is draft the PowerPoint presentation for Thursday’s product review meeting, turn to your 15-minute list.
A 15-minute list is a list of tasks that you can do in 15 minutes or less. For example, call and schedule your dog’s annual check-up at the vet, prepare an agenda for your meeting with your direct report, or brainstorm topics for the monthly newsletter. These are easy, quick tasks that you can complete with minimum effort and brainpower.
As you quickly cross items off your 15-minute list, it jump-starts your mojo and productivity. Feeling the warm glow of getting things done, you are now ready to move onto the product review meeting PowerPoint.
And, as a bonus, you can also use this list to capitalize on those micro-segments of your day when you are waiting for the Zoom meeting to start or the tech help desk to answer your call to get work done.
The next time procrastination strikes or you are waiting for a Zoom call to start, open your 15-minute list and check a few tasks off the list.
Work in vacation mode
Think back to your last vacation. I get it. It feels like a lifetime ago. Dig deep and remember. Now, think about what happened in the week prior to you sitting on a sunny beach with an umbrella drink in your hand. Did you complete a significant amount of work at warp speed?
We all have this mode of work. When you have a hard deadline, your productivity amplifies, so you can hit the road. You do not check the fridge a fourth time or linger on your Zoom calls discussing documentaries to watch.
Set mini-vacation deadlines, like turning off your computer at 5:30 instead of 6:30 and watch your productivity soar. And, give yourself a reason to leave work early. Take the earlier streaming yoga class, read a new book, or have a virtual wine date with a friend.
Shorten your workday with a self-imposed mini-vacation (something that makes you smile) and leave.
Winterize your task list
Tasks list can take on a life of their own and grow unchecked exponentially. Now is the time to winterize your task list and remove tasks.
Open your task list. Remove tasks that do not:
- Align with why your company hired you
- Leverage and highlight your unique strengths, skills, and experiences
- Bring you meaning, joy, and purpose
- Support the obtainment of a team or company goal
- Generate revenue
- Support revenue generation
- Serve customers
Remember the Pareto Principle or the Law of the Vital Few: 80% of the results are generated by 20% of the effort. Focus your time and energy on high ROI tasks.
The work must be completed. However, you don’t have to do it all. Identify the tasks that have become so routine you can basically do them in your sleep and automate these first. Next, pinpoint the tasks that don’t require human finesse, but are components of a complex process. Even though the entire process cannot be automated, there may be pieces that can be outsourced which will still save you time and energy.
Now you are ready to leverage powerful automation tools. Here are two of the best:
Zapier is a powerful integration tool that easily connects the other web apps you use in order to automate tasks. With Zapier, you can connect Evernote to task management apps like Asana and Trello, as well as, to your Google calendar. Or you can save your PayPal sales to a Google spreadsheet or post new BaseCamp activity to Slack.
IfThisThenThat is a web service that allows you to plug information from one app to another, allowing you to create custom tasks to mirror a specific workflow: “If [this things happens on one service], then [do that on another service].” For example, “If I post a new photo to Instagram, then download it to Dropbox. You can also use “recipes,” which are simply prebuilt tasks made by other users that you can add to your own IFTTT account
The next time the pull of your sofa is stronger than your computer, use a 15-minute list, work in vacation mode, winterize your task list, and automate to increase your productivity this winter and beyond.
Carson Tate is the founder and managing partner of Working Simply, Inc., and the author of Own It. Love It. Make It Work.: How To Make Any Job Your Dream Job.