There are many reasons New Year resolutions don't stick but rather than focusing on the negative, I prefer to focus on what does work. Habits like journaling in the morning or protecting your peak work time has proven successful for me and others interested in increasing their productivity. Even asking some key questions early in the year and checking in throughout the year has helped stay on course.
While it's not always necessary to stick to a regimented routine to be successful, there are a few things we can implement into our days that can improve both our work and well-being. Here are five I've found that have helped me throughout the years.
1. Give yourself a deadline.
It's been scientifically proven that we all have the same number of hours per day: 24. No more, no fewer. No matter how we slice it, it's all we have so it's best to be mindful of how we use those hours. Rather than leave it to chance, block out chunks of time and commit to working on whatever it is that you need to get done during that time. Cal Newport swears by it in his book Deep Work and authors KJ Dell'Antonia and Jennifer Lahey often discuss this method on their #AmWriting podcast. A self-imposed deadline can do wonders to your productivity. I often tell myself I have an hour or three to commit to this particular article. Then I turn off my email and set aside my phone and just focus on getting that article done within that amount of time.
2. Find your sweet spot and protect it.
Are you a morning person or night owl? Figuring out your chronotype will not only help you be more productive, it'll make you happier because you'll be able to stay focused when you need it most. I know I'm most productive soon after I wake up and have my morning cup of coffee. As a result, I try to keep my meetings at a minimum during those early hours because I know I can get twice the amount of work done in those first few hours than in the second half of my work day. I save my administrative tasks for the afternoon.
3. Create rituals or habits to keep you motivated.
Although I write on a daily basis as part of my work, I hesitated to start journaling because I was already writing for hours a day. Since I started writing my Morning Pages daily, though, my day has dramatically improved. The ritual of starting my morning with a cup of coffee and my journal, something no one will see or edit or judge, is particularly freeing and motivating. It lets me brain dump or work through challenges in a way I never considered or thought possible. I may credit this practice as my best new habit of the year.
4. Think small.
Big goals are lofty and exciting. They also don't happen overnight. Digging deeper into what you want to accomplish is important but so is understanding your motivation. Once you have that figured out, plotting out incremental tasks and staying accountable is key. Breaking down those big goals into actionable steps helps you stay motivated as you see progress.
5. Plan for rewards.
Rewards have been proven to increase motivation but not all rewards are the same. Rather than reward yourself for simply accomplishing something that was relatively easy to complete, save your rewards for the big milestones. According to research, you may be undermining your motivation by rewarding yourself for completing tasks that don't have intrinsic value. Adding rewards to your routine will motivate you to hit that next milestone.
Finally, not all days end the way we hope. Some days are harder than others and may derail our rockstar routine plans. Don't kill yourself over it. We all have bad days. It's how we react to a bad day that can determine how our next day will fare.