As a career coach, I find it hard to get behind the idea of a New Year’s resolution. I try to live by and impart to my clients the idea that the best day to change your life is today— there’s simply no need to wait until January 1st to become the person you want to be.
Aside from my problem with the idea of New Year’s Resolutions in principle, I also find it hard to ignore the fact that they’re also a pretty futile way of making lasting changes in practice with 80% of resolutions being broken by February. Who else notices how busy gyms are following New Year’s Day, and how quickly they regress to their normal occupancy?
I don’t fault anyone. I know how hard it is to maintain a New Year’s Resolution, but now that we have made it to that point in the year where the January 1st adrenaline is fading away, it’s time to talk to those of you who are still serious about what you can do to increase productivity and achieve more in less time!
Here are some of the best ways to increase productivity and to get more done in less time.
- Start a mindfulness meditation practice
Mindfulness meditation is one of the most powerful ways to declutter your brain and begin the process of getting out of your own way and your own productivity.
According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”
The evidence that mindfulness meditation has positive effects on mental health— relieving stress, anxiety, and depression— is pretty overwhelming. Some of you may be thinking: what even is mindfulness meditation? What do I actually do? Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to start meditating using apps accessible to anyone with a smartphone, like Calm and Headspace.
Becoming more aware of your thoughts and environment will allow you to notice behavioral patterns that perhaps stand in the way of your time management, so don’t overlook mindfulness meditation when it comes to finding ways to improve productivity.
- Give your home office a refresh
For many of us, working from home is the new norm— this means that the work environment we create for ourselves at home can be a huge way to boost productivity. What better way to get motivated than by reorganizing or redecorating? Sometimes it just takes a little ‘feng shui’ of sorts to get the ball rolling.
A recent survey of executives showed that 38% expect that employees will work from home two or more days per week, a number that is up 16% from data collected pre-pandemic.
It’s worth mentioning that many leading companies like Shopify, Basecamp, and Twitter have offered home-office budgets to staff of between $500 and $1000. If your company hasn’t made these kinds of steps, you can voice this concern with your HR department.
You owe it to yourself– and to your back– to invest in a proper desk chair. Your career will thank you for it as you boost productivity!
- Buy a physical journal or planner
Whatever notebook you decide to get is less important than the actual practice of writing daily and keeping track of your thoughts, schedule, to-do’s, etc. I can already hear some of you asking, Isn’t that what iCal is for? To that, my response is, don’t we have enough screen time as it is? Besides, there’s no replacement for the feeling of physically crossing an item off your to-do list. The satisfaction of putting pen-to-paper to tally something you accomplished is truly irreplaceable.
Piggybacking off the first piece of advice, writing in a physical journal or planner is also its own kind of mindfulness meditation. By actually taking the time to organize your life, you’re taking a break from the constant scrolling and refreshing that dominates our work and social lives.
There are also proven health benefits of journaling. Studies show that making a daily habit of journal writing can reduce stress, boost your mood and emotional functions, strengthen memory, and even improve your liver function and immune health!
What’s more? Those of us who take the time to write our goals down and share them with others are 33% more likely to reach them.
If you need help starting to write in your notebook, here are a few ideas of directions you can take to put your daily journaling in motion:
- A joy journal. Everytime something brings you joy, write it down.
- Daily intentions. Either right before you sleep, or first thing in the morning, write intentions for the day.
- Affirmations. Tell yourself what you feel confident about, or give yourself some reassurance with something you’re struggling with.
- Set a challenging goal outside your professional world
Work occupies a lot of space in our lives, but ironically, I’ve found in myself and in my clients that it’s particularly helpful for your career to set personal goals that are explicitly outside the realm of our work lives.
Some of the best news as it relates to productivity at work is that one of the most important and impactful things you can do to improve your job performance is draw boundaries between your professional life and personal life, maintaining a healthy work life balance.
Statistics show that employees with a good work-life balance are 21% more productive, and 33% more likely to stay at their current job. Why? Well, for one, achieving goals outside of work helps boost confidence, makes us more well rounded, and exposes us to new ways of thinking and approaching and solving problems. All of this is obviously very valuable in a workplace!
It might be worthwhile to try out platforms like Masterclass or Coursera, places where you can learn about a truly wide range of subjects that interest you. With that being said, your goals don’t necessarily need to be about developing new skills or learning about a new subject— you could just as impactfully be setting goals in fitness or wellness, healthy eating, sleep habits, or decreasing your phone time.
As long as you have an end-goal, and you take the steps to meet it, then it will be helpful to you in your professional life.
- Carve out time for networking and professional development, even if you’re not on the job search
Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, one of the best ways to expand your professional life is by networking. Once you get comfortable in a certain company or position, it’s easier to invest less time and energy in your networking game. While understandable, the truth is, there’s always a reason to be networking.
Aside from landing an actual job, networking can actually be extra beneficial when you’re not job hunting because the people you connect with won’t perceive that you’re looking for a favor. Instead, they’ll be flattered that you’re taking the time to solicit a conversation with them purely from the perspective that you would like to learn what they have to teach you.
Finding a mentor and cultivating a relationship with them can also be huge in professional development. I believe there are three crucial types of mentor relationships:
- Unpaid mentors: These relationships are very valuable. An unpaid mentor (likely someone who is a veteran in your field) will give you the kind of insight that only someone who has been through certain stages or challenges in your career can give you.
- Sponsors: A regular mentor will give advice, and a sponsor will help you in specific ways to meet tangible goals in your career.
- Paid mentors: What I mean by this is something like a professional coach. I have had many coaches throughout my career, and I became a coach myself because I realize how vital these relationships can be to helping professionals meet their goals.
This year, forget whatever challenges you made (and let’s be honest, probably already broke) from January 1st until now. Instead, focus on reasonable, attainable goals that you can work towards meeting year round— and don’t be afraid to make new goals along the way. January 1st can be any day with the right vision and motivation.