In this episode I talk about ways to stay productive in different seasons and how to feel (and show up as) our best year-round.
Staying productive through seasonal changes . . .
After my conversation last week with Lahana Vigliano about hormones and productivity, I’ve been thinking a lot about the cyclical nature of our lives as women–not just hormones, although hormones and their effects do create a cyclical rhythm to our lives–but also the cyclical nature of our world, as we cycle through one season after another. How does that affect our productivity?
There are different meanings of “seasonal”
- Hormonal seasons, especially for us as women
- Seasons of life (like childhood, college, career building, child-rearing, empty nest, retirement)
- Nature’s seasons — fall, winter, spring, and summer
I did some research and found some tips for productivity in any season. I’m mostly talking about nature’s seasons, but many of these apply to the other types as well
Recognize the Seasonal Changes
Productivity can naturally fluctuate with the changing seasons due to factors like daylight hours, weather, and temperature. It’s essential to be aware of these changes and adapt your routine accordingly.
Some studies show, for example, that in general people tend to be more energetic and productive in the spring, more creative during the fall, and less productive and more likely to procrastinate during the summer
On the other hand, Forbes cites a Harvard Business School study that indicates workplace productivity can improve during crummy weather, speculating that there are fewer alternatives to work during bad weather than when the weather outside is warm and sunny. When we’re stuck indoors during beautiful weather, we’re more likely to be distracted by daydreaming about what we could be doing outside.
To the extent seasonal weather affects our health, it can also affect our productivity. For example, that same Forbes article refers to Bureau of Labor statistics that “while less than .5 percent of workers miss a day of work because of the weather during the warmer months, that percentage increases to almost 2 percent during the colder months.”
It’s okay–even necessary–to adapt our routines as the seasons change. Flexibility is essential in maintaining productivity and mental health. As noted, I mostly want to talk about how this applies to nature’s seasons, but in my research, I came across several articles about something called cycle-syncing, which specifically talked about increasing overall productivity by adjusting your activities and routines to your menstrual cycle.
A Forbes article advocates the idea that women’s four hormonal phases can serve as a “blueprint to launch, execute, and finish projects of all kinds,” saying that “each phase of your cycle provides you with amazing brain superpowers,” and encouraging women that “By synching our professional life to our females cycle it allows us to be more efficient, productive and to stay in peak creative flow.” Citing quotes by several physicians, the article outlines the four stages and note the best types of work to be doing during each:
- Follicular phase–when we’re most creative
- Ovulatory phase–when we’re best at communication and collaboration
- Luteal phase–when we’re most task-oriented and energetic
- Menstruation phase–when our intuition and reflection powers are at their height
The same idea, of course, applies to the other kinds of seasonal changes. Whether it’s a season of life or a season in nature, recognizing the realities of that season and adjusting our routines accordingly can help us be more productive in all seasons. That might include such things as adjusting our sleep schedule or changing up our exercise routines to better serve us during the current season.
Set Realistic and Season-Appropriate Goals
Setting goals and priorities that align with the season can make it more likely that we’ll be successful in achieving them. For example, in the winter when days are shorter, it may be more realistic to focus on indoor tasks, while in the summer, you can take advantage of longer daylight for outdoor activities. Setting specific projects or goals for each season can help provide structure and motivation throughout the year.
Optimize Your Environment
We’ve talked before about how creating a conducive workspace can impact productivity. This can include adapting our workspace (and our home) to the seasons. So, for example, in the colder months, ensuring your workspace is warm and well-lit can help. Several resources I looked at referred to studies showing a chilly workspace impairs women’s productivity in a way that it does not impair men’s. So if it’s a space heater or warm sweater or cozy slippers, do what works for you. In addition to the sweaters and fuzzy slippers I wear in my home office during cooler seasons, I love to use candles–real or battery-operated–throughout my home to create a cozier, warmer ambiance. In warmer seasons, natural light and ventilation can be important supports to our productivity.
Other important productivity boosters:
- Time Management: Effective time management also includes seasonal adjustments. Different seasons may require adjusting your daily schedule to accommodate changes in energy levels and outdoor activities. Encourage the use of productivity tools and techniques.
- Mindfulness and Self-Care: As always, taking care of ourselves is important for maximizing productivity, especially during seasons when productivity may be lower. Practicing mindfulness, relaxation, and self-compassion can help combat any seasonal productivity slumps.
- Healthy Lifestyle Choices: We’ve often discussed the impact of diet and exercise on productivity. The healthier we are, the more capacity we have both for productive activity and productive choices that will let us actually enjoy the life we’re making for ourselves. Eating seasonally appropriate foods and staying active can boost energy levels and overall well-being.
- Collaborate and Seek Support: Support and collaboration can contribute to our ability to be productive. Connecting with friends or colleagues can help with motivation and productivity, regardless of the season.
Mindset and Positivity
Finally, it’s always good to remember the importance of maintaining a positive mindset. Both cyclical hormonal changes and seasonal changes can affect mood, so it’s vital to practice positivity and resilience in the face of challenges.
Seasonal weather changes definitely affect our mood and mindset. One study found that weather affects our negative moods more than it does our positive ones, saying that
“Bad weather, especially increased wind and darkness, will heighten our negative dispositions while beautiful weather will ease them. If you tend to be a more positive person in general, the weather won’t affect your moods as much.”
The good news is that if we are aware of these potential effects, we can take steps to mitigate them. If you’re one of the many people who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, you probably find it challenging to maintain a positive mindset when fall and winter bring shorter days and less sunlight.
According to one psychology professor, “the symptoms of SAD often mirror those of major depression. These signs and symptoms can include:
- Feeling “down” most of the day.
- Losing interest in work or activities.
- Feeling hopeless.
- Having trouble concentrating.
- Experiencing decreased energy.
- Craving carbohydrates.
- Experiencing weight gain.”
Remember that everyone’s productivity patterns are unique, so any advice you hear should be adapted to your personality, goals, and circumstances. In general, our year-round productivity and the quality of our life can be improved if we embrace the natural ebb and flow of productivity that comes with each season and make adjustments that suit us for the season and stage of life we’re in.
What do you think?
Do you think your productivity and goal-setting are affected by the seasons? Post your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me.
Resources and Link
- How Women Can Use Monthly Periods As A Productivity Tool
- How Productivity is Impacted by Seasonal Energy | Positively Productive Systems LLC
- Why cycle syncing could be key to your most productive self
- The Winter Blues: How Less Sunlight Influences Workplace Productivity
- (50) HOW TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE AS A WOMAN *yes, it can be different!* – YouTube
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – Symptoms & causes – Mayo Clinic
- How the Change in Seasons Affects You in the Workplace – FirstStaff, Inc.
- 5 Surprising Ways Autumn Will Affect Your Workplace Performance | Inc.com
- Working less this summer can help you be more productive—here’s how
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Royse City, Texas