Six Productivity Habits to Kick-off the New Year

In a world of ever-increasing distractions (hello, TikTok and Netflix) and ever-shorter attention spans, how can you stay focused and productive?

If you’re looking for ways to calm the chaos and boost your productivity (to support those 2023 goals), you’ve come to the right place. Here are our team’s top productivity tips.

1. Have Short, Daily Personal Check-ins

Okay, we know what you’re thinking: “I don’t have time for another meeting.” But hear us out because this “meeting”—more like a personal check-in—will change the way you approach your work every single day by adding structure and clarity to your to-do list, allowing you to calmly get all your ducks in a row before you start each workday.

Here’s how to get started.

Block off 10 to 15 minutes in your calendar at the start of each morning. Take this time, distraction free, to reflect on your upcoming projects and make a list of your priorities for that day. Look at the meetings you have coming up and any requests that have come in through email and align that with your list of priorities. What do you have time to tackle today and what needs to wait until tomorrow or later in the week? Create your priority list for the day.

With this list in hand, you’re almost ready to tackle the day. Next, you’ll turn it into a schedule with time blocking.

2. Block Your Time

Time blocking is a tried-and-true productivity method celebrated by productivity experts like Cal Newport. It’s a habit that helps bring structure to your day, allowing you to focus for longer periods on each task rather than multi-tasking and switching back and forth from one to the next.

Here’s how to make it a part of your daily routine.

Take your freshly created to-do list (thanks, morning meeting!) and pull up your calendar. How much time should each task take? Once you’ve made some estimates, start plugging your tasks into empty blocks of time on your calendar for that week. Bigger projects might require a few hours over multiple days while other quick-hit tasks can likely be slotted into 15-minute breaks in your calendar.

Here’s an example of what your calendar will look like before and after time blocking:

(Image via ToDoist)

For more insights and tips on time blocking, check out this helpful article from Todoist.

3. Set Boundaries

Firm boundaries are key to taking control of your time and they come with an added benefit—helping protect you from burnout. To have your most productive year in 2023, ensure you set two types of boundaries:

  • Boundaries at work. For some, this might mean setting aside uninterrupted, personal time at lunch to recharge. For others, it may involve advocating for yourself and learning to say no when your plate is overflowing. Remember, boundaries are about protecting your most important resource—time—so you can show up as your best self at and outside of work.
  • Boundaries between work and life. Last year, we had the opportunity to sit down with executive coach, resilience educator, interviewer and member of Oprah’s SuperSoul100 list, Komal Minhas. She shared her tips for fostering resilience, including creating boundaries between work and life. According to Komal, these boundaries will help you be a better leader, worker and family member, not to mention less bitter when you see colleagues taking time off. She’s a firm believer that most of life happens outside of work, so it’s critical that we take the time to enjoy it to the fullest. Read more of Komal’s tips here.

4. Practise Safe Social

Speaking of boundaries, if you’ve struggled with disconnecting from social media, you’re not alone. According to the New York Times, the typical American worker focuses on a given task for just three minutes. We also touch or check our phones more than 2,000 times a day and spend more than three hours daily staring at them. How can we maximize productivity and stay connected?

Earlier this year, our team had the chance to hear practical tips from Bailey Parnell, the Founder & CEO of SkillsCamp and Founder & Researcher at #SafeSocial. Here’s what she suggested:

  1. Treat social media in the same way you would drugs or alcohol. You wouldn’t take drugs or drink alcohol at work, so you likewise shouldn’t use social media for personal reasons while at work. Separate your work time and personal time.
  2. You can’t switch off stress when you go to work. If social media stresses you out in your personal life, you’re going to bring that stress with you to work (i.e., it will impact your time management, focus and engagement). You need to address it in your personal life.
  3. Pause notifications on your phone that don’t serve work. If you’re at your desk, you don’t need email notifications on your phone, too.

Once you start taking these steps, you might feel more disconnected initially, but over time you should find a renewed sense of focus with fewer distractions.

And if you want to incorporate social media time into your regular breaks during the workday, try scheduling it intentionally. Tip: Set a timer for these breaks to avoid getting lost in online rabbit holes.

For more tips on practising safe social, check out this blog.

5. Set Meeting-Free Time

Whether your team is remote, hybrid or onsite, there is one thing we’re all trying to adapt to: more meetings.

Researchers at Harvard Business School and New York University found that the number of meetings increased during the pandemic by 12.9%, on average, the number of attendees per meeting grew by 13.5% (Harvard Business Review), and the more time we spend on video calls means an increase in Zoom Fatigue.”

Time-blocking provides uninterrupted space for deep work, focus and idea generation, not to mention a break from being “on” in meetings. If your workplace is open to suggestions, why not try blocking off a company-wide meeting-free period? At Altis, we have Zoom-free/Meeting-free Wednesday afternoons to give our team time to focus. If they need to attend to time-sensitive matters during this time, we encourage them to try a good old-fashioned phone call in place of a video call.

If a company-wide initiative doesn’t seem possible for you, try setting aside some meeting-free time in your own calendar and be transparent with your boundaries by letting your team know in advance that you won’t be able to meet during that time. Even if you take one meeting-free afternoon, you’ll likely notice a positive impact on your overall mental health and productivity.

6. Celebrate Wins Weekly

How often do you celebrate your wins?

Chances are it’s not enough. Often, we finish up one task or project, check it off our list, and then jump right into the next one without taking a moment to celebrate our work. By the time Friday rolls around, it’s easy to forget about everything you accomplished that week.

This is your reminder to take time to celebrate your wins—big and small—each week.

Set aside some time on Friday to reflect on what you accomplished that week.

  • Write down a list of what went well, what your wins were, what you were most proud of and any areas where you felt there was room for improvement.
  • With your wins in mind, start planning the following week.

With this system in place, you’ll end each week on a high note and feel ready to tackle the week ahead (it’s also a helpful way to beat the Sunday scaries!).

If you’re looking for more inspiration on how to end each week on a high note, check out this article from Todoist.