Over the years I have had many different ways of managing my time ranging from the doing stuff every minute of every day and burning out, to getting to here, where I am now with a life structured around when I need to take breaks. I feel pretty balanced in my planning and I get stuff done, which I love. However in the last few weeks some well meaning people have been telling me to slow down some more. This has provoked a strong reaction in me one I didn’t really expect.
At first I went into the but I have been seriously focusing on taking breaks RECOGNISE MY EFFORTS mode. Then swiftly followed by the OF COURSE I AM NOT DOING TOO MUCH and the THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO HOW WILL I DO IT mode. However when I took a step back I realised if this has been said to me by more than 2 people then the universe was trying to communicate with me and I needed to listen. However as any self employed person knows it’s seriously challenging to wind down when there is a lot that you want to get done. So how can you slow down and at the same time be more productive?
Be organic and frugal with your time. No seriously, it’s true. In order to slow down and be effective we have to pay more attention to our bodies and our circumstances and make choices based upon those. In the last week I have been re thinking how to be productive but easier on myself and now here is my guide to help you take more care of you whilst getting stuff done during the hibernation period of the year.
Accept and surrender
First things first you have to accept that your mind, body and soul can’t do everything right now (I know, I hate this part too however it is seriously necessary.) Remember it’s not just you. Winter is a time for slowing down be you a plant or a human. This is hibernation time. One of the reasons I believe we get more stressed in the winter is that we are fighting the natural order of things and instead of slowing down we try to overcompensate and do too much. Nature doesn’t work like that and neither do we, that is the path to burn out. So accept it’s ok to slow down and surrender to this natural rhythm.
Pay attention to your body
Your body always has feedback for you we just have to listen. For a week or two observe your sleep patterns, your energy shifts, when you are focused, when your concentration is wobbling. Now look at the data you have observed and use this in your planning. If you are foggy headed every day between 9am and – 10am this not the time to be writing project proposals or having seriously important meetings. Simultaneously you might find out that on thursdays you are simply exhausted so going on a date that night is not the greatest idea. Plan your working day around your “golden hours” (your most effective time of day), and your need to wind down time. Especially make sure you give yourself breaks or easy days after you have had a social event. Winter makes being social more straining and trying to pack in a lot will end up draining you.
Say no more often
In the winter you don’t want to take on more than you can chew. People always seem to see the yuletide holidays as a down time yet when you think about it with all the prep, all the people, the shopping, the parties it’s not only santas busiest time of the year it’s also ours. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas the world is getting caught up in that rush. So think carefully about the work you take on. Say no more often than you do in the spring. A great trick is actually to ask yourself “why am I saying yes to this ?” It could simply be you are doing out of habit. Be careful with you “yeses”. It is a way of being more realistic with your time and energy.
Choose your tasks wisely and do them one at a time.
Multi tasking is out in the winter. Our brains are colder and therefore slower. If you are going to be productive you have to choose your tasks with care, prioritise and do them one at time.
I know multitasking is supposed to super effective however in the winter it often ends in two jobs getting done badly and a brain too busy to focus on one thing.
The world is hibernating, our bodies and minds need to hibernate too. Disconnecting from constant bombardment of social media gives us time to go internally and reboot. Try a week where you stay offline (phone, laptop and computer) for 30 mins each day and see how much better you feel.
Watch your sleep and your sun intake
Get sleep and sun. Both give us energy. Keeping your sleep habits in check during the winter is really important for our bodies. If you aren’t getting a full night’s sleep then look at your sleep habits and if you need to cat nap during the day. Equally getting our hit of vitamin d helps all of us feel happier. If you can’t get out in the sun then find a sun lamp or a local sauna that has this function. (And who is going to say no to a sauna in the middle of winter).When we are happy and rested we can be our most productive.
Relish your down time
Down time is precious, even more so in the darker half of the year. Make it special, Light those candles, treat yourself to that facepack or a cuddle on the sofa. Right now I have just given myself one of my favourite luxuries, a choco chai latte, (I even made Mr T one) and life feels so much cosier already!
Plan and implement a slow build up to Christmas that is non stressful
Last year I wrote my guide to planning a non stressful Christmas and in fact this system is so effective I am using it every month now. I won’t explain it here however if you want to not experience yuletide burn out and collapse during your holidays then read my article December without stress
Be kind to yourself
In winter you need to more lenient with yourself than at every other time of the year. So you still have to do list items not done at the end of the week. Sod it. Don’t focus on that focus on all the things you did and plan to get those tasks out of the week next week. And then allow yourself to have a break. Another great way to be kind to yourself is to ask for help. Winter is traditionally a time of community. Why? Well my theory is that we needed to band together to survive the winter, that need is still within us today. Two hands are definitely more powerful than one. So if you are getting overwhelmed reach out for help.
Create rhythm in your week
Create a rhythm to you week in terms of repeating tasks at the same time. Shopping, washing, answering emails or recycling, whatever are your repeating tasks each week create a structure (based on your energy cycle) where you do these things at the same time every week. By doing this and creating a habit of say doing the washing on a friday morning you will eventually use less energy as you do these tasks on auto pilot saving your energy for other things.
Slowing down does not have to mean you are less effective, it means making smart choices that are right for you. It is something no-one can really tell you how to do because when we take notice we all know our own bodily, career and life needs. Even if you adopt one of these habits you will find that you give yourself a gift of a little more energy this winter and after all we all love presents, right ?
Have a cosy weekend <3