Whether we’ve been celebrating the holidays over the past month or not, many of us tend to be a little tired, worn out and maybe even lacking motivation as we try to get into a productive flow again come January. And let’s face it; the shorter daylight hours and this unbelievably bracing cold most of us are experiencing make us want to crawl into a cozy blanket fort and stay there until April (or May… or June…).

But the new year is a good time to ditch some of the unproductive or unhealthy routines and habits we may have slid into since the feasting and celebrating began. It’s more than a tad cliché, but let’s try starting off the new year on a positive and productive note, shall we?

And as leaders it’s important that we’re setting a positive tone and leading by example at our organizations. It’s not that we have to be perfect, but we are responsible for ensuring our staff teams are feeling good about their work, and a lot of that is borne out of the way we’re working at the office with them. By helping ourselves, we’re helping our teams, too.

Below you’ll find some interesting and potentially helpful tips to start this year right

Boost Productivity: Some of us may be feeling a little sluggish and unmotivated these days. And it’s ok to feel that way sometimes – we’re only human. However, if you’d like to boost your productivity there are a few small steps we can take:

  • Each night, take 10 minutes to make a list of the most important things we need to get done tomorrow. Starting the day confident in what we have planned is not only motivating but can help us focus, too.
  • Figure out the time of day when we’re at our best, and do the most important, or most unpleasant work then. Dividing our day by paying attention to when we’re particularly alert and focused can improve our overall productivity.
  • Often and deeply. Getting enough sleep, and at the right time of night (they say the two hours before midnight we get our best sleep), whenever possible.

Check out this article, ‘Top 11 Ways to Increase Productivity’ for more helpful tips.


Set Some Goals: One of the most tried and true methods of starting off the year on a motivated and productive footing is by setting goals for ourselves. They can be professional, personal or both – whatever it is that will get us and keep us motivated and working toward their realization. Goal setting can also be done as a team activity at our organizations; it gets the whole team on the same page, and working towards shared visions helps to keep people engaged and accountable. Here are a couple of tips on goal setting:

  • Write them down! And make sure that they’re somewhere that we (or our whole team) can see them often. At PLC we had our whole year mapped out on a huge white board in our meeting room. It really helped to keep us focused and motivated. For personal goal setting, we could pin them up beside our bathroom mirror, as the wallpaper on our phone, or somewhere else we’re bound to see them regularly.
  • Make them SMART. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound. Research, experience and anecdotes tell us that SMART goals are the goals most often achieved.
  • Let’s try to include at least one goal focused on self-care. Looking after ourselves is so important in our sector. We work long hours, we have multiple stakeholders to whom we are accountable and the work itself can be physically and emotionally draining. Our communities rely on us so we must try to be at our best for them. A goal for the year that allows us to take time just for ourselves could not only make us happier folks, but help us to better serve our communities.

For a few more tips on goal setting, click HERE and HERE.


Break a Bad Habit: Ok, this one may be loaded with judgement, but that’s not our intent. Many of us may have developed some routines or habits over the past few months (or years) that we know aren’t good for us (physically, emotionally, mentally, professionally, etc.), and we might appreciate some suggestions on how to reset ourselves and cut that habit or routine out of our lives. This is very personal. If you’re happy with your habits and routines, then feel free to skip ahead! Otherwise, here are some tips on how to break a bad habit:

  • Peter Gollwitzer, a psychology professor at New York University has identified a strategy that works well for many people in breaking a habit; the ‘if-then’ format. In the ‘if’ portion of the format we identify the thing that triggers our habit. So, let’s say, for example, we want to quit swearing. We may identify that it’s when we’re excited that we tend to swear most. In the ‘then’ portion of the format we identify an action that will halt our usual response to the excitement, such as deciding on an alternate phrase. Then, put the whole format together: “If I get excited about a situation, then I will exclaim ‘Jeepers, that’s awesome!’” His research found this format highly effective. Read more about Gollwitzer’s research HERE.
  • Changing our routine can also help break our habits. Many of us have regular routines out of necessity: we get up at the same time, take the same route to work and home, make dinner around the same time, etc. Often, then, our very surroundings and day to day life can trigger our habits. If we can find a way to alter some of our daily routine, we may find breaking some of our habits a little easier. Can I get up earlier and meditate for 15 minutes? Can I take a different route to work? Can I try some new dinner ideas to keep me busy? Are there other ways I can change up my schedule and/or routine that will make my day feel a little different? For more ideas click HERE.


Get Organized: When the chaos around us distracts us from our productivity, our goals, our family and other things important to us, it might be time to declutter and organize. That doesn’t mean that if we like to work with papers and files and idea boards and lots of stimuli around us that we have to change our ways. We all have different needs and ways in which we feel comfortable and at our best, so if we’re not feeling that way at the moment, then we may need to take a look at our environment and see if we can quiet the visual noise.

  • Have a place for everything. Even if that place seems random to someone else, to us, that is its home. This way we can also manage the free space in our homes, offices, vehicles, etc., better. And if we make the homes of the things we most often use easy to access then that’s an organizing win as well.
  • Conducting an informal inventory of our ‘stuff’ may help us discover the things we no longer need or want that had just become part of the scenery. And by doing an ‘inventory’ and not an actual ‘declutter’ there’s a little less commitment to throwing so much of it away or donating it. When we have a better idea what we have, we may be less likely to accumulate more.

Not everything that impacts our lives is in our control. However, there are many little things we can do to make our lives a little happier, more relaxing, more productive and just easier overall. We hope some of these tips were helpful.

Have you got some tips or ideas for us to start off the new year in positive and productive ways? We’d love to hear them! Please feel free to comment below or email us at info@peelleadershipcentre.org.


Until next time,


This week’s blog was written by Tina de los Santos. Tina brings a diverse mix of nonprofit and business leadership to her role at PLC. Throughout her career she has been passionate about creating engaging learning experiences that support and inspire people’s professional and personal growth. Tina is our chief knowledge sharer and enjoys digitally connecting with other leaders in Peel to help them find great resources and learning tools.

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