Advertising
Advertising

Specific Ways To Be Productive In Different Months

Specific Ways To Be Productive In Different Months

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:

Advertising

  • 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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

  • 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.

  • 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

Advertising

More by this author

Bruce Harpham

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

Young Woman Reading Book 15 Inspiring Books Every Leader Should Not Miss 20 Life Hacks Put To The Test 20 Popular Life Hacks From the Internet Debunked (or Verified) The 15 Healthiest Companies In America That Everyone Longs To Work For 7 Reasons Why People Who Draw Mind Maps Are More Hireable No One Told You the Book List for Improving Leadership Skills? I Will

Trending in Productivity

1 How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated 2 How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life 3 How to Develop Mental Toughness to Help You Stay Strong 4 How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious 5 How to Reinvent Yourself And Redefine Your Future

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

Advertising

In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

Advertising

2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

Advertising

When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

Advertising

One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

Read Next