Feature Article:  Productivity after dark Making the Most of Short Winter Days and Long Winter Nights


The holidays are over, the snow doesn’t seem so pretty anymore, and we’re all ready to see some sunshine again.  This is the time of year when even on those really dreary days it’s important to remember that spring is right around the corner.  If you aren’t careful, it is much too easy to end up in a late winter slump, which can cause good sprits and productivity to go right down the drain.


Take heart!  Long days and beautiful weather will be here again before we know it.  And in the meantime, there’s plenty we can do to get the most out of short winter days and long winter nights.


Read on for some thoughts on maintaining your personal productivity (not to mention your sanity).


Avoid working nights.  When the weather is nice, we have a great incentive to be productive during the day so that we can get out of the office at a reasonable hour.  When the weather isn’t so nice, it can be easy to start extending your workday.


A funny thing happens when you do this.  Once you get in the habit of leaving work late or bringing work home, you can lose the incentive to be productive during regular working hours.


I’ve witnessed whole offices where everyone putters around in the morning and wastes a huge portion of their day because they’re all thinking, “I’m going to end up taking work home with me anyway.  I’ll catch up then.”  Once they learned to buckle down and get things done at the office, they were free as a bird at the end of the day.


It’s fine to have an occasional long day or to bring work home, just make sure you are doing so out of necessity, not habit.  A reasonable work-life balance doesn’t go out the window just because the sun isn’t shining.


At home, complete tiny tasks.  Warm weather tends to bring out the marathon taskmaster in all of us.  That’s when we generally do the big projects—cleaning out the garage, emptying the attic, scrubbing down the house.


During the winter, you might find it a lot harder to muster the energy or the ambition for small projects, let along big ones.  And that can leave you feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.


The fix?  Let yourself feel empowered by tiny tasks.  Let’s say you are sitting on the couch, itching to be productive but not knowing where to start.  Don’t organize your entire bedroom—clean out a drawer.  Don’t organize the closet—just sort through a pile of old towels.


You’ll be surprised at how good you feel when completing your tiny tasks.  Best of all, those small nagging projects are probably the ones that have been bugging you for quite a while.  That means you’ll get a great sense of relief from a small amount of effort.  What a great payoff!


Turn off the TV.  Winter is the time of year when you are much more likely to turn on the TV to watch a single show and end up losing your entire evening to watching junk.  You’re on the couch.  You’re cozy.  It’s just easier to stay where you are then to get up and move around again.


There’s nothing wrong with a little television, but make sure you’re watching shows that you actually enjoy and not just killing time.  Watch what you sat down to watch, and then make yourself go do something else. 


If you are watching TV for an extended period of time, grab a tiny task or two to complete while you’re at it.  We work too hard finding extra minutes during the day to waste hours at night.


Be healthy.  A healthy lifestyle is a year-round endeavor and there is just no way you can feel good and be productive if you aren’t taking care of your body.


Unfortunately, the months where we tend to slip up in this department are the months when it matters most.  Shorter days and less sunshine will have an effect on your personal energy levels all by themselves.  If you couple that with eating more junk food and staying cooped up in the house all the time, you have the makings of a major energy crash.


That’s why it is so important that in the winter months you stay active, eat right, and get some fresh air once in a while.  Find ways to match the activity levels you maintain during nicer weather. 


Make an extra effort to bundle up and go for a walk, even if it’s chilly outside.  Take the time to walk indoors, either on a treadmill or at the mall. 


Bottom line: do whatever it takes to get out there and get your heart pumping.  You will be amazed at what it does for your energy levels—especially if you’ve been a little lazy in this department over the last few months.


Seize the Day(light)!  Our bodies are nourished and energized by the sun.  So are our minds.  Make it a priority to see a little bit of the sun each day, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.  During the summer, we tend to think about avoiding the sun’s rays.  In the winter, it is just as important to seek them out.


Step outside to stretch your legs a few times each day.  Make it a point to spend some time near a window. 


For some, the lack of sunshine in the wintertime can lead to lower energy levels or even depression.  Some use a sunlamp to simulate the physical and psychological effects of a sunny day.


If you find yourself feeling down, tired, or unproductive, it might be time to catch a few winter rays through the clouds.  It really can do a world of good.


Make it a productive day! ™


(C) Copyright 2009 Laura Stack.  All rights reserved.