Just when we thought 2021 would be different, we’ve been plunged into a third national lockdown less than a week into the new year.
And, with it being January, leaving the house for walks or exercise is a freezing affair.
So, in many ways, it’s the perfect time to get started on things you’ve been planning for 2021 – whether it’s to read more books, organise your finances, declutter your wardrobe or just generally spend your time more productively.
Banana breads and Zoom quizzes dominated the first lockdown while The Crown and other Netflix shows reigned supreme in lockdown 2.0.
But now with New Year’s resolutions at the front of everyone’s minds, it’s a good time to get things organised for the third (and hopefully final) lockdown.
So, if you’re planning on being more productive the third time around, we’ve asked experts for their top tips on how to do exactly that.
Have a plan for the day
Life coach Carole Ann Rice explains how important a routine is for productivity.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Have a foundation to your day – get up, exercise, do a bit of meditation and journaling. Also, make sure that you finish your work at a given time of the day, as it can be tempting to carry on at your laptop into the night, which would then in return disturb your sleep routine.’
This can still be the case even if you’re not working at the moment – simply assign tasks to different days to pass the time.
She adds: ‘Always have something scheduled in to do each day, this could be de-cluttering emails, sorting out a drawer, phoning some friends. It is also important to have a different one for each day.’
‘If you haven’t already then now is the time to set your goals. When we set goals it gives us a sense of clarity, sense of purpose and a sense of direction but best of all it gives us something to focus our attention on and work towards,’ explains life coach Michael Cloonan.
Michael also suggests reading or exercising to fill the extra hours. January is usually the time people are committing to learning new skills, so the next few weeks of lockdown is an opportunity to put those ambitions in action.
‘If you are looking to expand your skills, increase your knowledge or looking for a career change now could be the perfect time to start an online course,’ he adds.
Manage your screen time
There are so many different ways screen time can impact both our physical and mental health, so it’s important to be aware of how it might be having an effect on you.
Of course, we aren’t saying ditch the devices all together – we know how important they are for social connection and communication, but it’s important to be mindful of how they could be having a negative impact.
Business Coach Maxwell Nee from High Performance Coach says: ‘In any lockdown screen time goes up by default as there is less things to do, but the most productive thing to do that we would recommend is to manage your screen time for effectiveness and for your mental health.
‘We would also recommend that you cut your screen time completely in the last hour before you go to sleep.
‘You should also do something for yourself before you jump into interacting with others for screen time. It is also important to do a morning ritual before you engage in screen time and make that non-negotiable. This will help to manage your brain and to split the focus.’
Focus on your morning routine
A good morning sets you up well for the day, so spend some time perfecting a routine that makes you happy – whether it’s having your favourite breakfast or doing some early yoga.
Life and business coach Roo Davies says: ‘Concentrate on how you can kick off your day in a positive way. For example, try ditching your phone – leave it downstairs rather than have it on the bedside table.
‘Introduce rituals which will help you foster a helpful energised outlook, such as meditation, exercise or journaling. Prioritise the first three things that you want to do that day.’
Ditch things that aren’t serving you well
‘By minimising things that aren’t serving you well, you can help protect your mental health and stay on track with a helpful mindset,’ adds Roo.
She suggests muting WhatsApp groups that are constantly distracting you or unfollowing people on social media that trigger unhelpful emotions. It’s also a good idea to carefully manage your online news consumption.
Focus on where you can ‘press play’
It’s fair to say that our lives feel like they have stopped at the moment, despite the fact that time is passing. Whilst some areas are most definitely on hold, it’s important to recognise that other areas can still flourish.
Roo stresses: ‘You are having to press pause on so many areas of your life at the moment (travel, socialising, group exercise, to name a just a few). It is important to reflect on where you can press play.
‘In other words, what can you still do that will energise you and invigorate you mentally and physically? Think about what you enjoy, what you’re good at, what brings you satisfaction and fulfilment. Is there a project you can kick off, a fitness goal you can work towards, a new hobby you can get to grips with?’
Change your mindset and break things down
Counselling psychologist Becky Spelman says: ‘When people procrastinate it’s because they see the tasks at hand to be too big for them to achieve in an easy way, so when they think about the task they think “this is going to take a lot of effort, it’s going to be quite difficult and quite draining” – these are their beliefs.
‘The best way to actually be productive is to try and change your beliefs about the tasks.’
A more positive mental attitude goes a long way. After all, if you’re constantly talking about how much you don’t want to do something, it’s unlikely you’ll do it.
Becky explains that in order to change your beliefs about these tasks, it’s helpful to break them down into much smaller sections.
‘This is so you perceive them as being manageable and easy to achieve and believing that you’ll have good success at achieving the task in a timely manner. Really breaking things down is absolutely key and making sure that you set a schedule and that you get into a habit of repeating the same tasks,’ she says.
Practice makes perfect
The more we continue to do something regularly, the more likely it will become a habit.
This will help with productivity, as you’ll have scheduled the time in to do the chosen activity.
Becky adds:‘The most difficult thing for people is to try and achieve tasks that they are not in the habit of actually doing. So practice is absolutely key here. And the more you get used to practicing something the easier it is to start taking action.’
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