How to Achieve More in the New Year
The New Year is about to roll in, which means it's probably time to become a new you. And what better way to shake into that new and uber-productive self then changing up your schedule to be the maximally effective person you always dreamed of being?
According to the well-studied folks at Psychology Today, you're probably waking up too late, staying up too late, and your body is, correspondingly, all kinds of messed up. "Our near-constant exposure to artificial light has... [left] our bodies and brains struggling," Holly Pevzner writes for the popular magazine. Of course, if you're already pulling the 6am rise-and-shine, you might be among the high-achievers of which Laura Vanderkam, bestselling scribe of such texts as What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast and I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, told the popular news magazine, The Week, that "They rise early. Almost all have a morning ritual."
Since so many people tend to wake up later, the early riser is also placed at an advantage next to their still-snoozing compatriots. "You need to wake up before the insanity starts," Eric Barker writes for The Week. Waking up early also sets you straight on setting some goals for yourself, another common habit among the high achievers or generally happy people, as reports a popular study that appeared in Journal of Happiness Studies all the way back in 2007. But the early rise promises something even more primordial than the late years of the Bush administration. Michael Grandner, who helps direct the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania, dropped some serious knowledge on Psychology Today when he warned that "[Our] natural rhythms have been gravely disrupted."
All of us live in some constantly-lit times and all that illumination has left our bodies scrambling--per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most people spin over five hours a day on things like Netflix and interacting with other people but don't, according to Psychology Today, correlate that with any particular feeling of happiness or satisfaction. All of our so-called leisure time happens in such small and measured chunks that we can barely feel anything at all, anymore. But how do you plan on reorienting your entire way of being in this hectic rat-race of on-line living? Here's some tips!
- Wake up once, not a hundred times. "When you hit the snooze button, you coax your brain to rewind to the beginning of the sleep cycle," writes Psychology Today, this time citing research by another academic, Edward Stepanski of Rush University. Of course, anyone who knows a snooze button already has some idea of this.
- And on that note, do more things earlier. Jennifer Ackerman's classic work of pop-psychology, Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body, informs us that "most of us are sharpest some two and a half to four hours after waking." Do things then.
- "The average person spends 28 percent of the work week managing email," Psychology Today reminds us. Check twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Remind the working world that you're the one that knocks.
- Take naps, if you can. Sara Mednick, back in 2013, gave a TED talk titled "Give it Up for the Down State" to promote her celebrated work of advice titled Take a Nap! Change Your Life, recommended taking naps, urging everyone "to take a break." And even NASA recommends taking naps, per Richard Wiseman's Night School: Wake Up to the Power of Sleep: "[NASA] pilots who take a twenty-five-minute nap in the cockpit...are subsequently 35 per cent more alert, and twice as focused, than their non-napping colleagues." If your workplace is not as conducive to naps as, say, NASA, Psychology Today, recommends nap-like activity such as "paperwork, photocopying, or collating."
- Socialize after dusk. Back in the day, Jacqueline Olds of Harvard Medical School reports, hunters and gatherers would choose the sunset hour to gather themselves into a socially cohesive whole. "Dusk is when people had to be especially aware to stave off dangers they couldn't see…[so] it was the time of day we'd group together for safety," Olds remembers. Psychology Today recommends posting on Facebook.
Every time payday rolls around, I’m on top of the world. Jeff Bezos-level rich - even though I’m anything but. And then somehow the very next day, rent is due.
The cycle continues. The next payday, bills for my apartment. I find myself without a surplus of savings since I just moved and newly-furnished my apartment completely.
Even more terrifying is the looming presence of the holiday season. Halloween’s officially over and before we know it, hello Thanksgiving…and then there’s Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s. It’s insane.
I’ve been feeling very British lately. Not in a Union-Jack-obsessed, “Keep Calm and Carry-On” way. I went through that phase in 2012 with everyone else… no thank you. And it’s not even a surge of patriotism catalyzed by the Queen dying — I’m firmly team Diana and team Meghan.
Now that fall is officially here, the holidays will sweep in and I’ll have to contend with the fact that I won’t be spending them with my family in the UK. I went home to London earlier this year, so there’s not much left in my travel budget for another trip across the pond. A few domestic jaunts might be in my future, but the closest I’ll get to England this winter is watching Love Island and Love, Actually.
So in that spirit, I’ve been filling my days with content from my favorite Brits. I’m listening to all the old British rock bands I grew up listening to, patiently awaiting the new Arctic Monkeys album, and rewatching anything with Michaela Coel in it. I even shipped myself an order of British Baked Beans, so you know it’s dire.
I’ve also been watching British YouTubers like Grace Beverley — my favorite. Generally, I only go on YouTube to watch Vogue Beauty Secrets and AD Open Door videos. But I’m so glad I stumbled on Grace. Her content is a mix of London lifestyle (what lured me in), relatable entrepreneurship, and mindful productivity. I’m not a hustle-and-grind-girlboss, but as a creative person in a 9-to-5, I need all the help I can get to stay plugged in. So, the video “how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmed” changed my approach to WFH.
Grace outlines her own productivity method: the to-do table. Instead of making a simple to-do list, she divides her tasks into a table that anyone can follow. As someone who’s survived with to-do lists for years, I recently implemented Grace’s method, and it’s revolutionized my workdays.
how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmedwww.youtube.com
I follow her routine to a tee. Here’s how it works:
Essentially, she divides her daily responsibilities into four categories: quick ticks, tasks, projects, and non-negotiables.
- Quick Ticks: Actions that take less than 5-minutes
- Tasks: To-do’s that take up to 30-minutes. Probably don’t take too much brain energy.
- Projects: Long-term list items. These help guide your priorities, even if you’re not crossing them off in one day.
- Non-negotiables: Pick 3 things each day that you must get done. This is how you’ll truly measure success.
With everything written down and sorted, next address your schedule. Meetings, deadlines, and time blocks — whatever works best for you. Write it down. Then make a pact with yourself to stick to them.
This way of categorization provides a roadmap for prioritizing your day — making you far more productive. Have you ever spent the entire day on small tasks and then suddenly realized you hadn’t moved the needle on any task? Or do you spend way too much time on tasks that aren’t a priority? No more. With your non-negotiables laid out, you know what to laser-focus on and what to dedicate energy towards.
Also, it pays to know your working style. I’m not a morning person. Yet, I have to be up and at ‘em super early. So, first thing in the morning, I march through my Quick Ticks to warm me up. I set a time limit, so I can knock out some easy wins which is totally inspiring. Then I move on to bigger things without lingering on emails or admin. For others, it might be more helpful to tackle the big things with all that early-in-the-day brain power earlier.
Grace has great tips on avoiding overwhelm and burnout. My favorite is taking more intentional breaks rather than scrolling through social media. I call this scrolling “productive” because I’m “coming up with pitches.” Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. It’s more productive in the long run to giving my brain a break with non-screen related stimuli.
Grace’s solution? Set a timer to read a real, an actual book. I’ve never thought of this. It’s a genius way to check off some books on my TBR and kickstart my creativity. After reading a good book, I’m completely inspired to write. So having books near my desk helps me step away from the computer during my lunch break for an actual reset. (And yes, the current books I’m reading are by British authors: Assembly by Natasha Brown, and Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalolu.)
In my pursuit of switching out my WFH set-up and getting my life together, I’ve engineered my workstation for success. With my new WFH essentials and Grace’s productivity technique, I’m revitalized for work — despite the fall blues and my melancholy about the pending holidays.
Here are the things getting me hyped for work and helping me crush my Grace Beverley-inspired to-do tables — no lists in sight:
Pack your bags — Southwest Airlines is having a major sale! Fares are as low as $59 one-way if you book by October 3rd.
This end-of-summer super sale is a game-changer for your travel plans through the end of the year. Summertime travel gets all the glory. But why not take advantage of your long weekends, holidays, and PTO this fall. You’ll be surprised at how much travel you can fit in. Keep the fall/winter season exciting with domestic trips that give you all the excitement without breaking the bank. All thanks to Southwest.
Here’s the breakdown:
Where can you go?
You’ll find discounted tickets to and from most airports. Sale fares apply to cross country travel, and even Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean! Whether you’re visiting a new city or revisiting your last beach vacation, this sale has fares to make your travel dreams come true.
What do the fares cover?
Southwest Airlines has multiple fare tiers, each with various benefits. Wanna Get Away fares start at $59, while Wanna Get Away Plus fares start at $89. You can also find great deals on Anytime fares, which offer priority boarding and express lanes. Then there’s Business Select tickets for a luxe experience at an affordable price point.
Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member?
You may think these sale fares are too good to be true. Is there a catch? Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member to access them? You’re in luck — anyone can attain these fares for a limited time.
But, insider tip, you should consider signing up for Southwest Rapid Rewards. With a free sign up, you earn points and miles with each trip you take. And with this sale, each dollar you spend on these discounted tix can stretch super far until you eventually earn free travel. The only thing better than a sale is free stuff.
I’ve been browsing the Southwest Airlines site, checking out flights and dreaming.