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The Best Advice on How to Stay Productive at the Start of a New Year

Updated on May 27, 2019Lifestyle

There’s something about a fresh year that makes us want to reboot our lifestyles. As the calendar page flips, people around the globe make resolutions, usually with a focus on self-improvement. If you resolved to be more productive this year, our fantastic tips will help you get started on keeping that promise you made to yourself.

FUN FACT: Did you know that the tradition of making resolutions for the new year is thought to have begun in ancient Babylon some 4,000 years ago?

We asked Grammarly’s audience for some of their favorite productivity hacks. Here are their tips, along with some expert advice to support them.

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1 Disable your smartphone notifications.

“Deactivate all social media accounts,” said Grammarly fan Justin Ruaya on Facebook.

While cutting the social media cord may work for some, it’s not practical for anyone actively engaged on social platforms. Fortunately, there’s a more pragmatic solution—disable your smartphone notifications.

Most of us can’t resist finding out what that beep, bloop, or knock-knock from our phones is all about. (Raise your hand if you’ve dropped whatever you were doing the moment you heard a notification sound. You are not alone!) The problem with checking notifications is that it not only interrupts your workflow, it can take you out of your groove completely. Often, checking on that Facebook notification leads to more time spent on the app browsing, stopping to write a few replies, or watching a couple of videos.

The solution is easy—get rid of those intrusive notifications so you won’t be tempted to stop what you’re doing to peer at your phone. It couldn’t be simpler!

What the Experts Say

Although viewing social media can take you out of your own mental flow, it’s not necessarily bad. In fact, a study by the University of California, Irvine, found that social media use at work increases productivity. Another study by the University of Melbourne uncovered similar results. (Use that information the next time your supervisor catches you browsing Facebook.)

Taking a brief break to browse social channels can serve as a sort of flash recharge that clears your head and gets you primed for your next task. Although social media can be problematic when it disrupts your flow, stopping to look at cute puppies on Instagram between tasks is not only fine, it’s probably beneficial.

2 Wake up earlier.

“Get up really early. Start your day whilst everyone else is sleeping and you will be amazed how easy it is to get stuff done when you aren’t being distracted,” britishenglishpro suggested on Instagram.

The quiet morning hours can definitely be a productive time. When no one else is moving yet, there’s little to thwart your progress. Plus, you’re more likely to be alert when you’re freshly energized from a good night’s sleep. Grammarly even learned that early birds make fewer writing mistakes.

What the Experts Say

There’s a lot to be said for waking early. A 2008 Texas University study showed that college students who identified as early risers had GPAs a full point higher than their night owl peers. Studies have also shown that those who wake early are more proactive, better at anticipating and analyzing problems, and are better planners. They’re also healthier, because they get better sleep and tend to exercise more.

But don’t sweat it, night owls. Although society puts a lot of pressure on you to rise early and fit in, you can rest knowing that being active later at night makes you “evolutionarily novel” and thus smarter. Children with higher IQs are more likely to grow up to be nocturnal adults. In your face, morning people!

3 Use the Getting Things Done technique.

Our Facebook fan, Kelli Page, said, “I like the tenets of Getting Things Done (GTD). Google it.”

We did. And we like them, too. David Allen, an authority on productivity, wrote the book on Getting Things Done. (Literally.)

What the Expert Says

Allen’s “five steps that apply order to chaos” are:

  • Capture. Collect what has your attention. Use a notepad, app, whatever works to record them.
  • Clarify. Process what it means. Take the things you capture and ask whether they’re actionable. If not, discard it. If so, decide what to do about it next.
  • Organize. Put everything where it belongs. Put action reminders on the right lists so you can tackle them systematically.
  • Reflect. Review your lists frequently for takeaways as well as to tidy up, update, and clear your mind.
  • Engage. Just do it! Use your new system to take action with confidence.

Visit for details on the GTD process.

4 Treat yourself!

“Create a more powerful incentive than that rush feeling of intense satisfaction [that comes with] barely beating a deadline,” said Facebook fan Maci Gillpost.

We procrastinate. Although we’re prone to complain about the habit, we humans regularly engage in it anyway. (At least, most of us do.) Despite the anxiety procrastination can provoke when it necessitates getting things done at the last minute, we all slip into procrastination mode from time to time, and some of us do it habitually.

What the Experts Say

You probably use deadlines more often than you know. Think about your commute to work. If you have to reach your office by 8 a.m., then you have a deadline for traveling to your destination. Have to get the garbage bin out by 6 a.m. on garbage day if you want sanitation to pick it up? That’s a deadline, too. And you’re probably not often late for work or forgetful about the trash in part because of those deadlines and because there are consequences to missing them.

When we miss deadlines, or come in just under the wire (and ultimately get all stressed out), it’s often due to our brain’s inability to plan our time. A psychological quirk called the planning fallacy makes us underestimate how much time something will take. We’re also prone to attributing our inability to meet a deadline to external factors. (“I couldn’t finish the article on time because there was construction happening next door and I couldn’t concentrate.”)

FUN FACT: The word deadline comes from the boundary line around a military prison. If a prisoner crossed it, they risked being shot by the guards. Makes your own deadlines seem a little less imposing, doesn’t it?

Deadlines can be effective because humans tend to function better when they’re under a bit of pressure. Some of us actually rely on stress to help us get things done. The stimulation can be a powerful motivator, and yet, logically we know that too much of it isn’t good for us.

One great way to replace the adrenaline rush of the impending deadline is to celebrate the joy and excitement of progress, instead. Harvard’s Teresa Amabile’s research uncovered the motivating power of progress.

We consider this to be a fundamental management principle: facilitating progress is the most effective way for managers to influence inner work life. Even when progress happens in small steps, a person’s sense of steady forward movement toward an important goal can make all the difference between a great day and a terrible one.

—Teresa Amabile, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work

So, celebrate your wins, no matter how small, rather than relying on deadline stress exclusively. What better way to start the new year than by creating a new victory dance?

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