Shorter Days: Making the Most of the Winter Season
You’ve made it to December! Well, maybe a bit further than that, but if you’re reaching the end of your semester, all I can say is congratulations. More than likely is that you’ll have some work to do over Christmas, but the shorter days and poorer weather can wreak havoc with our productivity levels. In this post, I wanted to share some top tips for success, especially since this is something I struggle with too.
1. Make a plan
I’m the biggest advocate for making a schedule, but the winter holiday period is often really busy for many people, and it can be hard to find the motivation to sit down and cram in some work. If you’re prepping for an exam, shorter bursts of study will work in your favour, as it’s easy to sit down and review a section of material. However, if you’re cracking out an essay, it’s really important to block off some time for you to do your work.
Check with friends and family when you’re needed for meals, shopping and gatherings, and then plan out the rest of your time accordingly. With a plan, it’s easy to make excuses for not going out and getting distracted, and I find that helps me enormously when I’m running close to a deadline. A few dedicated hours every day may not seem like a lot, but it'll be preferable to randomly having to sit down and work, as well as having the added pressure of trying to get focused.
2. Get enough light
Sometimes it can feel like the sun never really rises at all, and I often struggle with the near-constant grey skies in the wintertime. Working away at your laptop during the season can be a grim experience, especially when it feels like everyone else is having lots of fun. I’ve found that getting enough sunlight can really help boost my mood, and it’s not that difficult to achieve if you want it that badly.
Firstly, get out in the fresh air when it’s light, even more so when skies are clear. You’ll feel refreshed, and your body will get the sunlight it needs. When you’re inside, set up your study station near a window if possible, or make sure the room is well-lit. A small desk lamp is a cheap and easy alternative to a window, and you probably have one lying around your home. Straining your eyes in the dark, or relying purely on the output from your laptop screen will give you a serious headache, and I’ve made that mistake too many times to count.
Blue-light glasses can be helpful if you’re staring at a screen all day, and I’d recommend getting a pair off amazon. Wearing your prescription glasses or contact lenses will also stop your eyes getting so tired.
3. Know when to take a break
Mind wandering? Your concentration levels are likely to be lower in the winter, so know when to stop and walk away for a bit. It’s often counter-productive to force yourself to keep working after you’ve lost interest, and it’ll probably make you less likely to want to continue with the work next time. Setting aside a clear schedule of when you’re going to work, combined with being flexible and recognising your limits is an important part of self-regulating, so don’t be afraid to experiment with what works for you.
I’ve got lots of blogs on popular study tools, productivity and research tips, so go and check out what I have on offer. I’ve tried and tested many methods over the past year, so try out something new this winter.
4. Fix your sleep schedule
It may seem like it’s dark all the time, but you should make the most of the daylight hours if you want to be as productive as possible. I know very few people who I would say are honestly night owls, and most people who say they are tend to be a) trying to be cool by saying that they can only work at night; or b) running extremely close to a deadline with no choice but to pull an all-nighter.
Make sure you are sleeping well and regularly, no matter how busy you are with work or Christmas activities. It’s possible to have long and productive days with a good night’s sleep, so please don’t feel like you have to sacrifice one for the other.
Set an alarm and make the effort to get into a good routine, which is especially important if you’ve been away from home for a few months. If you feel yourself drifting off, a hot drink or a short walk can be a lifesaver, so only take a nap if you are literally falling asleep at your desk. However, if you do find yourself napping, it’s probably because you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, so fix that as soon as possible.
5. Rely on your friends
Let’s face it, it’s probably not just you who’s struggling to find the motivation to finish that essay, so get your friends together for a virtual study session. I find writing retreats pretty useful if I’m really stuck, and it can be nice to share ideas with friends too. Zoom or Microsoft Teams are software that you’ll be familiar with by now, so agree a time and log on. It can be useful to have a chat and set some targets of what you want to achieve, and then have periods of silent working and several breaks. This doesn’t have to last all day, in fact an hour or two is plenty to get you started and can be much more productive than working alone.
Ultimately, this time of year can be rough on our minds and bodies, so please take some time to look after yourself, no matter the deadlines that are approaching. Eating well, sleeping regularly and engaging in a hobby that you enjoy are simple ways to help you feel more prepared to sit down and work.
This will be my last Wednesday blog of the year, so I just wanted to say a massive thank you for reading my content and giving me lots of lovely feedback. I’ve really enjoyed building a community on Instagram, and writing regular content is something I have stuck to throughout 2021, so that’s a New Year’s resolution completed! I’m taking the rest of December off to work on other projects and to relax over Christmas, so I’ll see you all in 2022!