It’s winter. The days are short, the air is cold, and your motivation is slipping. But you have deadlines and to-do lists, the day job and laundry. The rest of the world is still moving at top speed even if you’re creeping along like molasses. Let’s face it, we can’t put everything on hold and hibernate, but maybe we can find a way to stay productive and feel balanced through the long, dark months of winter. Here are some suggestions:
Honor your natural rhythm.
The first step here is recognizing you have a rhythm. I’ve learned enough about both my personal and work habits to design my calendar around them. I do this on a micro scale by planning the week ahead on Sunday afternoons and front loading most of the busy work early in the week. Then, on Thursdays and Fridays, I schedule in some long, creative writing hours.
Over time, I’ve also recognized a macro rhythm in my professional life. For example, I am most productive creating content in the fall. My travel schedule ramps up in the spring and summer. And in the winter, well, I really struggle. Once I embraced this truth, and found ways to work with it rather than fight it, I stopped feeling like I’d wasted a whole season. Consider that maybe it’s okay to prefer one season to another, or to recognize you are more energized at certain times of the day, the week, the year.
Pay attention to self-care.
During the winter, my tendency is to let things go that I probably shouldn’t in the self-care department. I don’t feel like going to the gym when it’s still dark in the morning. I want hot chocolate and comfort food pretty much all the time. Sweat pants and a baseball hat seem like a fine wardrobe choice. Instead of fighting these tendencies, I try to incorporate them in a healthy, balanced way. Here are some suggestions that work for me:
- Get more sleep. I need it and the longer nights promote it. I pretend I’m hibernating. You can too.
- Make your work space more pleasant, or switch it up entirely. Maybe you need to take yourself off to the coffee shop for a writing session? Or maybe your space needs a makeover? Candles and twinkle lights work for me. Seriously. They make the darkness, which lasts so much longer now, feel cozy.
- More yoga, less gym. I don’t stress myself about making it to the gym a certain number of times per week in the winter. Rather, I commit to more hot yoga. It’s great exercise, I practice with a group, and it’s hot. Did I mention it’s hot? We all need to move, especially in the winter. What can you do that won’t feel overwhelming?
- Outdoor time. It takes more effort, layers, and proper footwear, but when I hike on Thursday mornings, or even take a walk around the neighborhood, I’m in a better mood afterwards. When sunlight is in short supply, it’s important to grab it when you can.
Your methods may not be mine, but you get the idea. How can you take care of yourself during the times you feel like it the least?
Set reasonable goals.
We all know we can’t write only when the muse strikes. If we want to consider ourselves professional writers, we have to embrace the fact that it’s as much about doing the work as it is about the art. Having said that, if we recognize that sometimes the work feels more difficult, we can set ourselves up for success rather than frustration. Here are some suggestions:
- Lower your expectations. If your word count goal during your most productive times is 2000 per day, try aiming for 500. You’ll still be making forward progress.
- Plan projects that are less creative and more task oriented. I like to check things off my list, and it feels even more important when daylight is in short supply. During the winter, I focus more on marketing, sales, and promotional work, less on creating a ton of content. Does this feel right, or should you be doing the opposite? Less busy stuff and more time in front of the fire working on your manuscript?
- Plan your day. Set aside time to write and protect that time. Even if it’s just an hour. You don’t want to lose your good habits during a challenging time.
Maybe you love winter and feel energized by the falling snow and crisp air. Possibly summer is your down time. Try reverse engineering the above suggestions. Whatever the case, we can’t always be on top of our game, so instead of fighting our natural tendencies, let’s try to make them work for us.