I’ve stopped making New Year’s resolutions. (Research indicates most people abandon them by Jan. 12 anyway.) Instead, I make a single commitment: to try one new routine or habit tweak for the whole month. Here’s what I’m doing in 2021 in lieu of a New Year’s resolution to improve my productivity and start the year powerfully.
5 Things, Every Day. No Exceptions.
During the pandemic, my husband and I have juggled raising an infant and managing my return to full-time work (at home, as I have since 2007).
It wasn’t easy. Between the fog of sleep deprivation, the cacophony of news and social media, baby teething, and so many FaceTime and Zoom appointments for our son and client work, the pressure to be present as a mom, keep up my milk supply, and perform as a team leader was sometimes overwhelming.
I recovered by doing what I always do when shit hits the fan: I built a supportive, structured routine.
By embracing the fundamentals of productivity, and doing exactly what I’d advise my entrepreneurial clients to do, I rediscovered important yet forgotten elements of my day.
Here’s what they are and why they’re important.
1. Define Three Key Results
At the start of each workday, I outline three results I will produce by the time I close my laptop.
It's best (for me) when these are easy to track, like:
- I've responded to all important emails
- I've completed [a specific, concrete task]
- I've connected with 5 clients or prospects
The reality is that I complete far more than these three things, but this forced focus ensures that I'm prioritizing appropriately.
On the weekends, I challenged myself to just do three things per day — even if they were as simple as a load of laundry or dishes, a long shower, or 30 minutes of time playing on my Oculus Quest or iPad.
2. 30 Minutes of Movement
It doesn't matter whether it's a dance party, neighborhood walk, stretch session, or Pilates or at-home video workout: my body moves for 30 minutes.
I get my best results when I move earlier in the day, but your mileage may vary.
On the busier days, my 30 minutes often gets broken up into short bursts of 20 desk push-ups or 20 squats. Better this than nothing at all.
3. 30 Minutes of Reflection
During pregnancy, I did a 10-minute meditation in the morning and an afternoon daydreaming session in which I either sat in my backyard or looked out at it. Sometimes I journaled. Those were the days!
The most reliable way I can build this into my day with our son is if I hold him during one of his naps (which is so relaxing and soothing in itself) or take him and our dog on a walk around the neighborhood and give my husband some solo time.
Taking time to let your brain process and do its thing is essential. You may not have time to journal or color or formally meditate, but if you do, go for it!
4. Organization & Optimization
This may sound silly, but each day, I devote 30 to 60 minutes specifically to organizing something.
It could be a shelf, a closet, a business unit, a repeating process (e.g. shopping for food), or even what I see in the first 30 minutes of my day. Other days, I focus on digital assets like my Downloads folder or browser tabs.
This soothes me — bringing order and ease to chaos — but it also helps our household look and function better.
And it adds up quickly. Imagine how you'd feel after a month if you set aside 30 minutes each day to tidy a part of your physical or digital workspace.
I'm grateful that Mike and I are already very connected throughout the day because we’ve worked at home together for the last eight years. We already had a morning coffee routine and were in the habit of regularly checking in with each other for hugs, laughs, and updates on each other's day.
With our son, this has become even more important, because we’re handing him off to each other so that the other person can focus on an activity. Three things that really work for us here:
- We have a policy: if our son is doing something cute or trying a new skill, we interrupt the other person so we can be together.
- Really great hugs throughout the day.
- Morning coffee, dinner, and evenings together every day, without exception.
Why It Works: The Magic of Compounding
What I love about these five activities is that, for me, they feel like a complete, satisfying day, but aren't terribly overwhelming in themselves.
And over the course of days, weeks and months, these minor shifts in focus add up to profound inner and outer transformation:
- Sharper focus on producing the most important work achievements
- 10 hours a month moving your body
- 10 hours a month on reflection
- The equivalent of a full workday a month invested in organizing and optimizing
- Up to 20% of my waking hours spent connecting with others