Earlier in blogmas I shared some top tips for staying productive during the festive period. Today I want to talk about 4 of the best things you can do to set yourself up for the new year in these last few weeks because the plan I have right now is pretty simple.

Clear

I know that having a clear out is usually associated with spring, but making space and clearing the clutter can be a great way to set yourself up for the new year, especially if you’ve received any replacements of things for Christmas. If you need some guidance, earlier this year I wrote up my complete guide to doing a spring clean that’s just as relevant now.

Plan

Set your goals for the new year ahead. These could come in the form of new year’s resolutions or they might just be things you want to achieve in work or your personal life. Last year I put mine up on an A3 poster on my wall, and I think I’ll be doing something similar again this year. I’m also going to review the goals I set in September and check they’re still true to what I want. Give yourself some focus for the next 12 months, it’s hard to achieve something if you don’t know what it is. If you can’t think of a big year-long goal, start with something you want to do in the first 6, 3 or 2 months of the year and use that to drive yourself forward.

Prep

Once you’ve set those goals, set yourself up to achieve them. If you want to eat healthier, make sure your cupboards are properly stocked. If you want to try a new class, book it now. If you want to reach a work goal, come up with a strategy to get there. This is a great activity to check that the goals you’ve set are actually doable as well. Give yourself a fighting chance to get where you want to be.

Rest

Finally, take the end of the year as a time to rest and recharge. You’ve achieved a whole lot this year, I don’t know you but I know you have. Just surviving a year on the planet is a big achievement. So, take a moment to reflect on all you’ve done and then take some well-deserved time off so you can come back and do even better (not necessarily more, something I’m learning) next year. There are so many excuses to put your feet up and just enjoy yourself at this time of year it’s hard not to.

We all know that Christmas is a great time to get together with friends and family, to enjoy the festivities. But just because Christmas is happening doesn’t mean that you don’t have work to do anymore. For a lot of us, December is actually one of the busiest months of the year so balancing what you have to get done and making sure you pack in enough festivities to tide you over til next year can be a challenge. Here are my tips for making it to the end of the tight rope walk that is December successfully.

 

LEAVE SPACE TO RECHARGE

I’m putting this right up at the top so you don’t forget it. You need time to rest. That means time not doing exciting Christmas things, time not working. You need time purely to rest. That could be taking an hour for yourself every day, or blocking out a full day to work from home and just recharge. If you don’t take just a little bit of a break you’ll end up struggling through the last few weeks of the year, not enjoying the celebrations and not working at your best, and who would want that?

 

BLOCK OUT TIME IN YOUR CALENDAR

I have spoken at length in a number of productivity based posts about the importance of time-blocking, but it is never more relevant than when you’re busy and juggling lots of priorities. Work doesn’t get done unless you give yourself the time to do it, especially if there’s the temptation of mulled wine right around every corner.

 

BE SENSIBLE WITH YOUR GOALS

Don’t set yourself an impossible task (this is always good advice FYI). I think you have to be understanding with yourself that you might have a little less time to do things than you might normally, and that will mean that you get less done, and that is okay. Taking the time to enjoy yourself is so important. So set yourself a sensible, achievable goal and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t quite meet it because Rudolph and his friends stopped by.

 

MAKE YOUR WORKSPACE A LITTLE BIT FESTIVE

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re cooped up away from the fun. Work, even if it’s tough, shouldn’t feel like a chore. That doesn’t make you inclined to do it, or to do it well. What works for me is to spruce up my space a little bit so that I can still feel like I’m in the Christmas spirit even if I’m churning out blog posts. I also like to reward myself with festive treats as I go – hello 3 empty packets of lebkuchen!

 

BE HONEST WITH YOUR FRIENDS

If you’ve got lots to do, don’t be afraid to tell people. Rather than making excuses, or anxious because you feel like you need to go out and work, just explain your situation. I promise you’ll find people are way more understanding than you might think.

 

Writing Christmas cards is one of my favourite parts of the season. I love letter writing at any time of year but the added bit of festivity and the added excuse to write to people I wouldn’t normally is something I relish.

I mentioned in my Christmas planning post that I’d be sharing a few of my thoughts on writing top-notch cards, and this is it. This is by no means a prescriptive guide, the best cards are the ones that you write from your heart but I (at least) think it’s always nice to have a bit of nosey into how other people do it.

DRAW UP YOUR LIST, AND KNOW YOUR TIMINGS

Before you do anything, you’ll want to work out how many cards you’re sending out and to where. The further away your cards are going the earlier you’ll need to have them written. I’d suggest checking your local postage times, Royal Mail last posting dates can be found here.

 

PICK YOUR CARDS

Obviously, you then need to pick your cards. I have a set that I’m very proud of in my shop, which have just the right level of sparkly in my opinion. But you should choose the cards that go with the kinds of wishes you want to send out into the world, are you going for something humorous, are you trying something traditional, or something minimal, or are you going for all-out glitter, sparkle, and sequins? Finding cards that you want to be your marker on someone’s mantelpiece can be tricky, but it’s so nice when you stumble across that set that’s just right. Just remember whatever you buy to make sure you buy enough to have a couple of spares because mistakes will happen (if you’re me).

PERSONAL, FORMAL UPDATE, OR A MIX OF BOTH?

Now to the format, where you have two main choices if you’re going for something other than the “Dear John, Merry Christmas, Love Jane xx”. The first is to write a personal note in each card, something specific and thought through that is more about your individual relationship. The second is to go formal with a pre-written or typed insert, one of my friend’s mums is particularly great at these. If you’ve got a lot of updates you want to share with grandparents this way can definitely speed things up. Or, you could merge the two and have your pre-formatted updates go into a personal card, which is what I’m potentially thinking of for this year.

PERSONAL

This is the route I normally go down. I like to use Christmas cards to reflect on my relationships and why I’m thankful to have the people I do in my life – I guess because we don’t have Thanksgiving here. Where possible I like to include a story we’ve shared over the year. I’m also partial to throwing in a Christmas cracker style joke in there too – because they’re great and you can never have too many in your life.

FORMAL UPDATE

As I said I receive a lot of great examples of these from mums – is there anything mums can’t do? These often come in the format of a typed up insert and can be designed as much as you like and even include photos. In terms of copy, think about including the big events that have happened over the past year. Have you changed jobs? Moved house? Taken up a new hobby? Got a pet? If not, what are you enjoying in your day to day? It can be a great chance to look back over the last 12 months.

DRESS UP YOUR ENVELOPES

I love a good finishing touch, and when it comes to letters that means adding something a little special to your envelopes – of course, make sure that your address and stamp are still clear and visible. You could adorn them with doodles, stickers, or add a few extra words. How about wrapping them in gift wrap so they’re like mini presents in and of themselves? Whatever you do, add something you wouldn’t normally and you’ll feel like you’re really sending something festive out into the world and who knows you might even make a postman’s day along the way.

 

I’m going to be reviewing the kind of content I put out in the new year, and I want to make sure it’s stuff that you find useful or interesting. I can’t see things changing too dramatically (I’m not suddenly going to become a make-up guru) but I am going to have a bit more focus to my content, and perhaps my posting schedule.

I currently just write what I feel like or what I think you might find engaging. But going forwards I really do want this to be a useful resource for other people as well as something that it’s nice for me to work on. What better way to do that than to ask for a little bit of your feedback?

So, I’ve put together a very, very short questionnaire that I would really love if you could honestly fill in.

It should only take you 2-3 minutes, there are just 10 quick questions, and it would help me out a lot if you could give me your feedback. 

Take the questionnaire below!

Create your own user feedback survey

I’ve had a slow couple of weeks recently. Not bad weeks, but weeks that didn’t quite feel like I’d done the best I could. So, in order to get out of the funk, I thought I’d write a list of the things that make good weeks go well, and that I hadn’t been doing recently so that I could change it up. Just in case someone else is in the same position, these are the keys to a productive week that I’ve found (so far) that actually work.

PLAN TO TIME RATHER THAN JUST A LONG LIST OF TO DOS

I’ve written at length a few times about organisation and planning, so I don’t know why this one doesn’t always stick but don’t just write a to-do list longer than your arm. There is nothing more off-putting (perhaps other than a blank page) than an overwhelmingly long to do list that you just don’t know where to start with. The best way I’ve found to solve that is to break my to-do list into chunks and then assign those chunks to time blocks, so I’ll give myself an hour and a half to queue my social media on a Saturday and then I do it at a set time. That way I always know what I’m doing when. Pro tip if you’re going to do this though is to schedule in a little buffer time because no matter how well you think you know your own productivity things will always go wrong and having a little breather will mean it doesn’t throw you off course.

SORT OUT YOUR CHORES

If you’re anything like me, and I hope you’re not for your own sake, you’ll end up prioritising the everyday things you need to do over the work that’s on your to-do list. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, you probably do need to do laundry. But if you’re going to decide that you can’t do any real work until the rest of your life is in order, you need a plan of attack for your chores. For me, and we’re back to the time blocking, I have a specified chores period on a Saturday morning, which means that I don’t worry too much about tidying other than making my bed and having a bit of a clear up the rest of the week.

GIVE YOURSELF THE BEST POSSIBLE CHANCE

Know the conditions you work best in. Are you a morning person? Do you like to be alone or work around people? Do you need peace and quiet? Do you like to do a long chunk of one thing or keep your day varied? Work out what you need in order to be productive and make sure you have those things. I like to work in my own space (I have a weird thing about people walking around me when I’m working) with my headphones on, so as much as possible I sit at my own desk or one in a corner and I make sure my headphones are always charged up. I also know that I don’t work well on an afternoon so I don’t schedule in anything too heavy for 3 pm. It’s so important to work how you work best, and that’s not something I can really help you with other than suggesting you find out for yourself.

SCHEDULE AROUND YOUR SLEEP

This has been something new to my thinking but it’s made such a difference. There was a really bad period this year where I was only getting about 4 hours of sleep a night, I was running on caffeine at work and then finding myself asleep on my desk on a weekend. I knew that something had to change and that I couldn’t keep trying to cram more and more and more into my days. So I started to schedule around my sleep pattern. I start with the time I have to wake up on a morning, then I work back with how much sleep I need, then back again with my wind down time and so on and so forth. Making sleep a priority has made such a difference and has actually meant that I end up doing more in a day even though I’m technically working for less time.

GIVE YOURSELF SOME FUN TIME

Don’t forget to leave yourself time for something you enjoy that could be anything from going out with friends to watching a movie or spending an hour cooking. Give yourself those moments to remind you why you’re working so hard and also help you recharge. If you’re not having fun, something has to change. This is your life and it can’t all be about work as much as you might have conned yourself into thinking that it is (that last sentence is very firmly aimed at myself).

How do you plan a productive week? What are your keys to success?