3 Research Backed Tips On How To Shake Off The Post-Holiday Dust
Has the end of the holidays left you in a slump? If so, psychological researchers have your back with these three tips.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | February 06, 2024
As the holiday season concludes, many of us grapple with the sluggish aftermath of festivities, experiencing inertia or reluctance to resume normal activities after a period of relaxation and celebration.
Another reason why we struggle to break free from holiday inertia is the juxtaposition of reflecting on the past year's accomplishments and anticipating new challenges ahead. This creates a mental fog that hinders productivity.
It's crucial to acknowledge that amidst the post-holiday haze, opportunities for growth and success await. The key is to focus on the positives and adopt strategies to shake off the inertia that holds us back. Here are three strategies to help you muscle your way through the post-holiday quicksand.
1. Implement The "Two-Minute Rule"
This concept is straightforward yet powerful—if a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately. Promptly finishing tasks requiring two minutes or less effectively saves time. Tackling these small tasks promptly not only creates a sense of accomplishment but also propels you forward.
The two-minute rule also applies to initiating any goal or habit, as most objectives can be started within two minutes. While not every task can be completed in 120 seconds, beginning your journey toward new goals is the crucial first step toward accomplishing them.
For instance, if you want to cultivate a reading habit, start by reading the initial page of a new book using the Two-Minute Rule. Before you know it, you may find yourself breezing through the first three chapters.
This approach not only helps clear the immediate backlog but also acts as a catalyst for regaining momentum. Breaking down large tasks into smaller, manageable chunks prevents them from becoming overwhelming, making it easier to transition back into a regular routine.
2. Utilize 90-Minute Time Cycles
Similar to circadian cycles, humans also operate in cycles known as "ultradian rhythms." The human body follows these ultradian rhythms, with research indicating distinct peaks of energy and periods of exhaustion within each cycle. The optimal duration of unbroken focus for the brain is limited to a window of about 90 to 120 minutes. Following this, a 20–30 minute break is essential for renewal, ensuring high performance in the subsequent task.
Supporting this concept, a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology highlights that engaging in micro-breaks, such as stretching, refilling a water bottle or cuddling with your pet, has positive effects on work performance. The study also shows that employees who integrate micro-breaks into their routine demonstrate increased work engagement, improved work quality and a more positive overall attitude toward their job.
To capitalize on this natural rhythm, chalk out focused, uninterrupted work periods for your most significant tasks. Set a timer for 90 minutes and immerse yourself in a specific task during that time. After each cycle, take a short break to recharge. This approach helps strike a balance between productivity and relaxation, gradually easing you back into a more efficient work routine.
3. Handle Significant Tasks When You're Most Alert
Research suggests that personality traits significantly influence individual productivity levels, confirming that productivity cannot follow a one-size-fits-all approach.
A study published in The Economic Journal reveals that individuals with higher neuroticism tend to perform poorly, while those with greater conscientiousness exhibit better performance, possibly due to neurotic individuals' reduced capacity for concentration. Additionally, individuals with impulsive traits find it more challenging to resist distractions like checking social media. Attempting to enforce strict productivity rules may prove futile in such cases.
Recognizing the need for nuance and personalization in the pursuit of productivity can help individuals strategically enhance efficiency by understanding their optimal work times and conditions.
Those with a morning bias can prioritize significant tasks early in the day, while night owls might achieve peak productivity during evening hours. This acknowledgment of diverse working preferences promotes crafting a bespoke, sustainable productivity strategy.
When chasing peak productivity, acknowledge that not every day will be impeccably efficient. Avoid being overly critical during less productive times and instead, shift your focus and implement these strategies. Once you identify the most effective approach for yourself, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the heightened productivity both at work and in other aspects of life.
A similar version of this article can also be found on Forbes.com, here.