25 Amazing Ways to Have a More Productive Winter
Your winter productivity will spike with these tips, backed by science!
When the days feel shorter and the temperatures get colder, it can be hard to stay motivated. We all know the struggle of keeping your energy levels up during the drawn-out dark and cold months of winter. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can keep up with your to-do list all season long—the secrets lie in what you eat and drink to who you surround yourself with. Read on for some of the best ways to boost your winter productivity, backed by scientific research.
Soak up some sunshine.
Obviously this isn't an easy thing to do during the dark days of winter. But any day the sun is shining, take full advantage by getting outside. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, sunlight plays a major role in productivity and work performance, not to mention your general quality of life.
Use light therapy.
If getting real sunshine isn't an option, there's still hope. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), light therapy is a great way to help you stay energized and productive. It doesn't take much effort, either: Just sit in front of a light box—something you can easily buy on Amazon—for 30 minutes every morning while you're eating your breakfast. In one landmark 1998 study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, doing this helped 70 percent of patients increase their happiness levels in just a few weeks. And a happier you, is a more productive you!
Go for a walk outside (or even down the hallway).
It probably doesn't seem like there's anything worse than going for a leisurely stroll in the snow, but it can actually help increase your productivity levels. The cold temperature can seriously wake you up, and that fresh air does all sorts of good for your wellbeing. In fact, a 2016 study published in the journal Emotion found that going on a walk can act as a mood-booster—even if that walk is indoors. So, take a break when you need it and you'll be in the right headspace to work once you're back.
Take mental health days.
If you already know the dark days of winter get you down, plan ahead and take off sporadic days throughout the season to better your mental health. Not only will they give you something to look forward to during those chilly months, but they'll also give you the time to do the things you need to in order to reset and re-energize your body. Plus, one 2010 study published in the Indian Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine notes that mental health issues can negatively impact productivity in the workplace, so taking a few days off will pay off both wellness-wise and productivity-wise in the long run.
And take mini breaks throughout the day.
Even if you can't take a mental health day in full, finding the time to take breaks throughout the day can do a lot of good for your productivity levels. In one 2018 study from DeskTime, the employees with the highest productivity actually worked shorter hours due to taking 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work. Instead of working yourself to the bone, taking mini breathers could be the real key to getting things done.
Drink more water.
When it's cold outside, chugging water isn't exactly as ideal as sipping on something like hot chocolate—but for the sake of your to-do list, it has to be done. One 2011 study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that even mild dehydration caused mood changes and concentration issues in healthy women, so drink up if you want to be happy and productive all season long.
Drink focus-boosting lattes.
In addition to drinking water, starting your day off with a latte is also a great way to stay productive, as long as you add your mucuna pruriens. This type of bean has been used for centuries to help with stress, increase mood, and improve focus. By adding some into your morning latte, it could help you stay productive this winter!
But limit your overall caffeine intake.
It might seem like downing cup after cup of coffee is a no-brainer when you want to get things done in the winter, but the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics says it's actually better for your mental health to do the opposite and seriously cut down on it. Instead, sip on some caffeine-free tea to get energized naturally during this chilly season.
Take vitamin D supplements.
According to integrative medicine specialist Andrew Weil, MD, 70 percent of the population is thought to be deficient in vitamin D. And in the winter, when sunlight is minimal, vitamin D levels are even lower than normal, leaving you feeling sluggish and unmotivated. Weil recommends taking a daily supplement of at least 2,000 IU to get your levels back up again.
Spend time surrounded by others.
If you work in an office, make sure you're taking breaks to talk to your co-workers. And if you work remotely, do so from a coffee shop or co-working space—not from your couch. When researchers from MIT studied the impact of socialization on productivity in 2008, they found that the workers who were the most social were also the most productive.
And take on new, exciting tasks at work.
If your work is getting dull, winter is the perfect time to start taking on projects that excite you. Doing the same assignments over and over can have an especially big impact on your overall mood and productivity levels. To spice things up, talk to your boss and see if you can take on something new. It'll give you that extra oomph you need.
Make sure you have hobbies.
To make sure you stay active and productive—especially throughout the winter season—find a hobby you love doing and make it a priority to spend some time doing it every single day. Whether it's painting or doing the daily crossword, working your mental muscles beyond your actual job can help keep you energized and ready to tackle whatever is on your to-do list.
Clear out the clutter.
One of the best things you can do to be more productive is make sure your space is clean, whether at home or at work. When everything is put away with no clutter lying around, you'll be able to breathe a little easier and you'll have the much-needed motivation to get things done. One 2000 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that an employee's physical work environment (and how tidy it is) can affect their performance and wellbeing.
There's an important reason to add a daily meditation to your schedule, especially in the winter. According to the Mayo Clinic, even 10 minutes can improve your concentration, reduce your stress levels, and help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. All of these small changes will help you feel your best all season long and keep your productivity levels in check.
Start earlier in the day.
If you have more energy when it's actually light outside, that's when you should try to get the most done. And since daylight is much more fleeting during the winter, then waking up earlier during the season will help you be more productive. If you make it your mission to check everything off your to-do list early, you'll be much more productive than you would be waiting until later in the day, when it's dark and you feel sluggish.
Develop a morning routine you love.
There's nothing harder than getting out of a warm, cozy bed when it's freezing cold outside. To make sure you start your days off on a productive note, develop a morning routine that's actually worth getting out of bed for. Sit down and have a healthy breakfast; brew your favorite beverage; do some stretching—whatever makes you feel your best. You'll be energized and inspired from the get-go, setting yourself up for a day of success.
Make sure you're getting enough sleep.
You're not going to get anything done if you're always groggy from staying up too late. A lack of sleep can severely affect your mood, making you irritable, short-tempered, and much more stressed. When you do get enough sleep, though, your mood totally shifts, and you're much more in the mindset to keep up with your daily tasks.
Don't stress yourself out with unrealistic to-do lists.
When you want to keep your productivity up, you make a list of everything you have to do. However, sometimes seeing everything written down in one place can overwhelm you so much that it makes you want to do nothing at all. (We've all been there.)
Instead of bogging yourself down with an unrealistic amount of tasks, only jot down the must-dos and save the other things for later in a "won't do today" list. This is something Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey swears by.
Play some mood-boosting music.
In the winter, playing some mood-lifting music could be just the thing you need to stay on track with your daily responsibilities. In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers found that those cheery tunes can give your happiness levels a serious boost, making you feel more energized overall.
Take a midday workout break.
When your productivity levels take a serious dip for the worse this winter, getting those endorphins running through your body could be just the boost you need. One 2008 study from the University of Georgia found that people who engaged in just 20 minutes of low-intensity aerobic exercise every day over a six-week period increased their energy levels by 20 percent compared to those who didn't work out at all. And the more energy you have, the more productive you'll be!
Stick to healthy food choices.
One smart way to make sure you stay productive through the winter is by making sure you're filling your body with wholesome foods like vegetable soups and fruit-topped oatmeals. In one 2015 study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, an analysis of 405 young adults' dietary journals revealed that higher fruit and vegetable intake was associated with greater creativity, curiosity, and general wellbeing. If you stick to junk food, it's only going to make you feel even more tired and sluggish, making it that much harder to get things done.
Take it easy on the sugar.
It's hard to avoid sugar—especially around the holidays—but doing so could drastically improve your productivity levels. A 2012 study out of UCLA found that eating a super sugary diet can majorly affect your brain power, negatively impacting your learning and memory skills. So, to make sure you stay in the right headspace over the season in order to get more done, don't overdo it on the sweets.
But do eat dark chocolate!
While milk chocolate is loaded with sugar, dark chocolate is a much more sound choice—both for your physical health and for being productive through the winter. In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers found the polyphenols that dark chocolate naturally contains can help give your mood a serious boost, lifting your spirits and making it easier to get through your to-do list.
Add more omega-3s into your diet.
One way to combat low energy levels over the winter months is to add more omega-3s to your diet, especially if you tend to feel down and unmotivated during the cold and dreary season. One 2006 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry notes that they can play a role in naturally helping treat mood disorders. To get your fix, stock up on chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and other heart-healthy options and you'll have the energy to be more productive in no time.
Little kids and dogs get rewards for doing something good, so why shouldn't you? If you're having trouble staying productive, come up with fun prizes for yourself for getting through the tasks you really don't want to do. Once you conquer them, treat yourself, whether that's with a trip to the movies, a new pair of shoes, or a fancy meal. When you have something motivating you, you're bound to get a lot more done!