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Specific Ways To Be Productive In Different Months

Specific Ways To Be Productive In Different Months
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Managing our productivity and energy effectively depends on the seasons. By looking at demands on our time from the perspective of the whole year, it will be much easier to manage our year. For purposes of this example, I have structured the months and seasons as they occur in the Northern Hemisphere. With a bit of imagination, you can apply these ideas elsewhere.

Winter (December, January, February)

Winter is a season full of special challenges. With the holidays of December and the cold weather, many people struggle to make progress. Make the most of this time by implementing the following principles:

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  • Review The Past Year’s Accomplishments. Completing an Annual Review in December is a practice that many of the most productive people in the world practice. This practice will help you capture insights on goals achieved and ideas to help you become more productive in the coming year.
  • Plan The Year. January are the perfect time of year to make plans and set goals for the year. Writing your goals down is an excellent technique to motivate yourself in January will keep you going even when the weather discourages you.
  • Prepare Taxes. Preparing for your tax return is hardly fun (unless you are excited about receiving a large refund!). By starting the preparation process in the winter, you will avoid the last minute panic that many people face. If you have good files from last year, you can use that as a starting point.
  • Read A Big Book: Reading is one of the most important habits we can practice to become more productive. By exposing yourself to good writing, your own writing and understanding of the world improves. In February 2015, I started reading Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow, a biography that is over 800 pages long. It is an outstanding book and perfect to read during the long, dark nights of winter.

Getting through the long dark months of the year requires some inspiration and fresh ideas. Use these resources to stay renew your motivation and increase your productivity.

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Spring (March, April, May)

Spring signals the return of nature after the dark and cold of winter. Spring is also a great opportunity to improve your productivity.

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  • Spring Break: In Canada, most schools have a 1-2 week March break vacation. Elsewhere, you may have Spring Break. Taking a short vacation as winter comes to a close is a great way to give yourself fresh ideas. If you have been struggling with a business problem, diving deep into some good business books over spring break may be the most productive decision you make all year.
  • Boost Productivity By Getting Outside. Our physical health and wellbeing is a major contributor to our productivity. When the spring season arrives, longer days mean you have the chance to get more sun light. Taking in a walk through a nearby park will help to reduce your stress levels and improve your mood.
  • Increase Your Productivity With Networking. In April and May, it is time to get outside and meet other people. Strong relationships – at home and professionally – do wonders to increase your productivity. You can use this season to attend local Meetup.com events related to your work – this is a great option for people interested in technology and marketing (interests that are well represented on Meetup.com).
  • Outer order contributes to inner calm. According to author Gretchen Rubin, the order of our homes and lives increases our sense of calm, a key contributor to productivity. Spring is the perfect time to get started on that long neglected spring cleaning project at home. At the office, you can also take this opportunity to dispose of obselete materials and archive old emails.

Summer (June, July, August)

For many people, the summer signals relaxation, leisure and fun. It’s a habit we developed as we went through school – the prospect of summer holidays was always exciting. In the working world, summer is a great time to get ahead. As more and more people go on vacation, you have the opportunity to get more done.

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  • Get Ahead While Everyone Goes Into Vacation Mode. Many companies slow down in Juy and August as a large percentage of the workforce goes on vacation. This is the perfect time to create professional assets, resources that you can use over and over again at work. The slow months of the summer are also a perfect time to assess your performance: are you reaching your work goals? What can you change to do better?
  • Get Training To Improve Your Productivity. As the pace of work often slows in the summer, it is a perfect time to get training. You can take an online course, attend a conference, or start a self study program. If you are looking for a general program to improve your productivity and organization, I recommend reading Getting Things Done by David Allen.
  • Plan A Bucket List Experience. In my view, productivity means achieving your goals which can certainly go beyond career and business goals. The summer is a great time to work through your bucket list, especially if you like adventure sports.

Fall (September, October, November)

The closing months of the year bring new perspectives. Students return to their studies, charities launch donation campaigns and companies push to achieve their business goals.

  • Review Progress on Goals Set Earlier in The Year. If you have set goals earlier in the year (preferably using a proven system such as Michael Hyatt’s 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever!), the fall is a great time to review your progress. You may be pleasantly surprised with your progrress on some goals and disappointed in other cases. The fall is your opportunity to improve your productivity by getting focused on your goals.
  • Expand your network by attending events and reaching out. In the fall, many professional associations offer new programs and events. You can advance your career by actively participating in associations – attend seminars, ask questions and look for volunteer opportunities.
  • Choose one major activity to complete in the year. The final few months of the year are a great opportunity to get ahead. While everyone else is thinking about the fall holidays, this is your time to get ahead by doing the work others will not do. For the best results, choose a single goal or activity to complete in the remaining months of the year.

Featured photo credit: Autumn Leaves/jbom411 via pixabay.com

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More by this author

Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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