Post-holiday productivity can be a challenge. Over the winter holidays, TLR’s Insta feed exploded with everyone – from freelance digital nomads to van-lifer business owners, posting cheeky snaps of lazy food coma days. Even the healthiest and most organized might find themselves drawn in by the siren call of the holidays. We all seem to fall into weightlessness and forget about our carefully built healthy habits. Nothing wrong with sleeping in and washing down long dinners with plenty of wine shared amongst family and friends. It’s what the holidays are for. But perhaps you, just like some of us here at TLR, are finding that once Santa leaves, trouble comes knocking.

A week or two away can, at least temporarily, make a significant difference for our eating patterns, exercise, and of course – work. Post-holiday productivity is something many of us struggle with and it’s nothing to beat ourselves up for. There are plenty of effective solutions backed by science. Some of our coworking community members here at TLR came together to share their best post-holiday productivity tips and I looked into the psychological data. What we came up with is a list of simple, yet effective techniques to help you get your mojo back, while keeping your sanity.

Ana’s Tip: Draw Inspiration

Ana Salamanca is an architect with a focus on acoustics. She came back to Malaga from Germany a year ago and founded her own company for gorgeous decorative acoustic paneling. When she’s not designing, Ana loves to hike, meditate, and read. I was really excited by her take on post-holiday productivity – using the time away to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Surely, many of us have experienced fixating on minor details. So it can be helpful to step back, forget about everything for a few days, and then look at it with fresh eyes. 

Ana also draws inspiration from the holidays and comes back to work with a long list of exciting ideas. Perhaps we too can enhance our post-holiday productivity this way. Were there conversations that showed you an unexpected point of view? An experience that sparked a new concept?

The Research Says: Regroup and Prioritize    

This is a good time to consider what feels most important to you and prioritize the stepping-stones to achieving it. A lot of work has probably piled up while you’ve been away and trying to tackle it all at once can be counterproductive.

Photo: Cathryn Lavery

According to a study published in the “Journal of Graduate Medical Education” in 2016, successful work requires that you have a clear set of goals and the ability to prioritize them. The study defines 3 core processes:

1. Examine what is currently required of you and what your personal career goals are.

2. Determine how well the two fit together.

3. Create a plan that better aligns your current tasks to your goals.

Of course, we all do things that are required of us sometimes, this is a choice we make to secure our financial future, career development, etc. However, knowing your personal career goals and prioritizing tasks accordingly is more likely to boost your post-holiday productivity and long-term motivation. This method might be useful for getting started.

Andrea’s Tip: One at a Time

Andrea is Italian but he’s been living in Malaga for a few years. During office hours he is a product manager ,and off the clock – an avid traveler, guitar-player, hiker.

Andrea’s post-holiday productivity tip is all about balance: “Rather than starting everything all at once (work, sports, classes, etc.) integrate all of your activities into daily life one by one. Usually work is most urgent and comes first. The week after you can add another activity, and so forth.” He also applies this approach to his New Year’s resolutions and adds: “Whenever I find myself struggling to focus, I use the Pomodoro technique.”

The Research Says: Start Small

I don’t know about you but a part of me loves grand gestures and dramatic changes. I tend to want it all here and now so I often put too much on my plate and instead of progressing steadily I get discouraged. A lot of the entrepreneurs and creative professionals I talk to share my experience.

Photo: Daniel Hjalmarsson

According to the Harvard Business Review, post-holiday productivity requires another approach – harnessing the power of small wins. It’s what psychologists call the progress principle: making frequent, albeit small progress on meaningful tasks keeps you creative and motivated in the long run.

Teresa Amabile is a Professor of Business Administration and Entrepreneurial Management at Harvard, who has extensively researched the progress principle. According to her, seemingly trivial events have a profound impact on the way we feel about work. This is true both for positive and negative events. We can control these variables by breaking a task up into smaller chunks. Then we’re more likely to experience a series of small successes, thus increasing our overall satisfaction, motivation, and post-holiday productivity. Sounds interesting? Then you might like Prof. Amabile’s TEDx talk.

Maarten’s Tip: No Distractions

Maarten is from the Netherlands and is an entrepreneur. He is currently creating an online learning platform that empowers people to pursue personal growth.

Just like most of our coworkers who are developing their own businesses, Maarten didn’t take a huge break for the holidays and explains it by quoting Seth Godin: “Set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” Still, every now and then we all need to swap quality time with our computers for quality time with our friends and family.

After, to get his post-holiday productivity going, Maarten uses Robin Sharma’s 20/20/20 principle: “20 min. of movement, followed by 20min. of reflecting, and lastly 20 min. dedicated to personal growth (reading, listening to a podcast, etc.)” Another principle that Maarten leads his work life by is that distractions, however subtle, are productivity’s biggest enemy. To counteract their effect, he aims to stay focused on a single project for 2-3 hour chunks of time.

The Research Says: Be Kind to Yourself

It’s not always possible to dive straight back into post-holiday productivity like you haven’t been overindulging in your mother’s home-cooking for the past two weeks. And that’s ok, we all need breathing room.

Photo: Sandrachile

Kristin Neff is an associate professor at the psychology department of the University of Texas. She defines compassion as feelings of kindness and genuine care. Self-compassion, a central theme in her work, is the same thing but aimed inwards. According to this study, cultivating self-compassion can help us focus on mastering tasks, instead of worrying about being judged. It also lowers anxiety levels and leads to healthier coping strategies.

To boost your post-holiday productivity, try taking several short breaks during the day and notice how your body feels as well as the thoughts going through your mind. You don’t have to do anything other than notice and try to react with self-compassion. If you want to do a bit more, Neff has several free exercises on her website.

Aksel’s Tip: Dive In

Aksel Andersson is from Sweden but has been in Malaga for over two years and calls it home. He has a phone business and helps with Swedish customer support, recruitment, and sales.  If you want to know more about Malaga’s favorite sport – paddling – Aksel is your guy!

His take on post-holiday productivity is a bit different from what we’ve discussed here but it can still be a great match for some. It’s all about jumping straight back in: “I am remote, so I take my work with me everywhere I go. You need a bit of a routine in your life, so when I start again I just wake up early and dive in.”

What do you think about our post-holiday productivity techniques? Which ones can you relate to and what do you usually do? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below or on social media.