Happy new year! If you’ve listened to TPW for long you know I like to use milestone dates as triggers for a little reflection and particular actions. One of those milestone dates, for me, is the beginning of a new year. There is nothing inherently “special” about starting a new year, but the feeling of a fresh start encourages me to do certain things to reset my attitudes and my actions.
Starting the New Year strong
In light of the new year ahead of us, I thought that I would share some things we can do right now, as well as some habits to consider cultivating, that can help us have the most productive year ever. Turning the calendar from one month to the next, or from one year to the next, doesn’t actually have any meaning in and of itself, but it can be a great time to do a reset and take a few actions that will set you up for improved productivity in the weeks and months to come.
5 actions to take as the year begins
Here are five things I encourage you to begin doing right away, maybe even this week:
1. Change your passwords
It’s important to have a strong and unique password for each account. Don’t use one password for everything.
According to the FBI early last year, they recommend using passphrases (longer is better–a longer phrase that you can remember but will be hard for hackers to figure out), ”combining multiple words into a long string of at least 15 characters” [from FBI recommends passphrases over password complexity]
“Your email password needs to be particularly strong, as hackers can use your email to change the passwords for other accounts linked to your email address.” [from 9 Tips to Create a Strong Password That You’ll Never Forget]
2. Schedule your annual medical, dental, and eye care appointments
Get them on the calendar now. Scheduling them well in advance means it’s more likely you can get an appointment at a time that’s convenient for you.
Note, though: Several sources I read cite studies and experts who question the value of an annual physical exam for healthy adults with no symptoms, citing expense and little evidence that annual exams result in better health or longer lives. Talk with your doctor about the right schedule for you.
3. Pay attention to paper
Set up folders or binders for important papers with categories such as medical, business receipts, school papers, and information for filing taxes. Go ahead and get started on setting your system up and gather everything that is needed. Putting all these papers into specific folders or binders can help keep you organized and on track. (Check out Lisa Woodruff’s book, The Paper Solution, for suggestions on what to keep and how (listen to TPW308 for my discussion with her).
4. Design a self-care routine
Start with setting yourself up for getting adequate sleep. Establish a regular bedtime and wind-down routine, with no screens.
Beyond that, what makes you feel strong, calm, and cared for? Make time for that, whether it’s a few minutes each day, or an hour a week, or some other schedule that works for you.
While you’re at it, consider creating a special “retreat” area for yourself–a place to do yoga, or to meditate, or to sit with a cup of coffee and a good book. If you can set aside a room to do this routine, great, but even just a comfy chair with a good lamp, a soft throw, a couple of pretty decor items or framed quotes is good too.
5. Schedule something to look forward to
Maybe you’ve wanted to schedule a vacation or personal retreat? Maybe attend a conference to sharpen your professional skills? Or perhaps a get-together with friends to catch up and recharge. Having something fun to look forward to helps keep us focused and motivated.
6 productivity-boosting habits to consider cultivating
In addition to my suggestions for five actions we can take now to get the new year off to a strong start, I also want to suggest 6 habits to establish in the new year. Pro-tip: Don’t try to change everything at once. Whether it’s the habits I suggest below or others that you have in mind, just choose 1 or 2 to start with and once they are truly habitual (you do them without thinking about it), add another and another.
1. Make your bed every morning
Making your bed every day makes the room immediately seem tidier and gives a small sense of accomplishment and control that can set the tone for the rest of the day. You don’t have to use fancy linens, but if you can set aside a few dollars to make the bed and your bedside tables pretty, all the better. At the very least, though, just keep your room tidy.
2. Start an accomplishment log (I heard about this from Amy Landino–check out her video about 21 Healthy Habits to Start in 2021)
Keep track of the things you accomplish, both large and small, personal and professional. (On the professional side, don’t wait until your annual performance review to start keeping track, but instead start right away.)
Don’t focus on the tasks you do, but instead on the results you achieve.
Perhaps start each day by writing down things you achieved (completed the laundry, etc.). We’re good at seeing where we fall short, but less at giving ourselves credit.
3. Start (or add to) a gratitude journal
I encourage you to start a gratitude journal in the new year. If you already have one but haven’t kept up with it, re-commit to writing in it daily. Look for things to be grateful for each day and write them down.
4. Go for a daily walk
Getting out for a walk each day can have a huge impact on our health and productivity. One article I read mentioned the following:
“For example, regular brisk walking can help you: Maintain a healthy weight, Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, Strengthen your bones and muscles, Improve your mood, Improve your balance and coordination.”
5. Drink water
Start a habit of drinking a large glass of water first thing in the morning. Or buy yourself a large water bottle and fill it in the morning, keep it with you throughout your day, and drink it all.
What does this have to do with productivity? Studies show that even mild dehydration can have negative effects on our cognitive abilities, short-term memory, and math ability, for example, as well as our emotional equilibrium, energy levels, stress, and overall mood. [see Water is Essential for Productivity–Here’s Why and Why Drinking Water is Good for Productivity]
6. Focus your day
Make a list each evening of no more than 3 things you’ll want to accomplish the next day.
You probably have lots more than that to get done, and certainly write those things down too, but the point of this habit is to give some thought ahead of time to what’s most important–what will make the biggest difference in how you feel about the day?
Rather than letting yourself be overwhelmed, take a few minutes to identify those MITs (most important tasks), write them down, and plan to focus first on those.
What do you think?
What things do you do at the beginning of a new year to set things in motion for productivity? Please share them in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
Resources and Links
- Six reasons to make your bed every morning
- Accomplishment Logs Track Your Success and Improves Solution Reuse – 5MinuteBI
- Range | Accomplishment log
- 5 Easy Ways To Track Gratitude And Accomplishments – So You Stick To I – Archer and Olive
- FBI recommends passphrases over password complexity | ZDNet
- 9 Tips to Create A Strong Password That You’ll Never Forget
- A checkup for the checkup: Do you really need a yearly physical? – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publishing
- Health Check-ups: When you need them and when you don’t – Choosing Wisely Canada
- Health Checkups | Choosing Wisely
- Is an Annual Physical Exam Really Necessary? | Time
- Walking for good health – Better Health Channel
- Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health – Mayo Clinic
- 10 Benefits of Walking, Plus Safety Tips and More
- Water is Essential for Productivity—Here’s Why – Indianapolis Soft Water
- Why Water is Good for Productivity
- The Paper Solution by Lisa Woodruff
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