If you spend all year waiting for the holiday season to arrive, then hey, we get it. What a great time of year: Family, gifts, cheers, and less work to do – what’s not to love? But when you return to your desk after all this downtime and celebration, it’s easy to feel uninspired and sluggish as you get back into the swing of things. To counter this slump, try out the below 14 new year productivity tips. 

The top 14 new year productivity tips

Ready to make the most of all your work-based New Year’s resolutions? If you’re gung-ho to make a big change over the next 365 days, these new year productivity tips should help.

1 Map paths toward your goals

Goals such as ending the year with twice as much revenue as last year are ambitious. They’re so ambitious, in fact, that they might feel unrealistic. That worry goes away if you plot out goals like this one from start to finish. 

As you create your goal map, ask yourself some questions to get off on the right foot. What concrete steps can you and your team take to achieve it? When should you take these steps? Who on your team should handle which steps? What resources will you need? Are these resources attainable? Asking these questions can illuminate your most realistic path forward while breaking your goal into smaller subgoals that strategically increase your output.

Start the year off right.

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2 Create subgoals for all your big goals

Let’s continue with that revenue-doubling resolution from the first example. Yes, it’s ambitious, but it might feel less imposing if you break it down into smaller pieces. What if you increase your revenue 25 percent in the first quarter? Another 25 in the second quarter? And another 25 percent in each of the remaining quarters? Cumulatively, that’s a 100 percent increase – as in, it’s double your previous year’s revenue value. It’s also a way to achieve more things over shorter periods.

Breaking things down into more palatable subgoals typically involves the development of SMART goals. These goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. A 25 percent quarterly revenue goal is certainly measurable, relevant, and time-bound, and you can make it specific and achievable too. Just look at your usual revenue paths and assess which ones are most successful. Tie your goal to these paths to make it specific and achievable.

3 Focus on the “R” in SMART goals

In the above example, we explained how to make a big goal specific and achievable. We didn’t quite focus on the “R” of it, “relevant,” because that seems obvious: of course, increasing revenue in the new year is relevant! But you’d be surprised how often team leaders come up with goals that lack a significant purpose. These goals ultimately chip away at your productivity – meaningless output benefits nobody. So, for this new year, swear off the bad habit of establishing goals that don’t relate to your core purpose.

A relevant goal will clearly benefit your business and overlap with your values, vision, and mission. To cut irrelevant goals from your brainstorming sessions, ask yourself if they truly improve your affairs and speak to your vision. Then, ask a big question you can answer in any way, as long as it’s honest: Why are we setting this goal? If coming up with an answer feels like digging yourself into a hole you’ll never escape, drop the goal. Others are more worth your time.

4 Analyze your progress often

This new year, you should commit yourself to regularly, actually analyzing your productivity as you work toward your goals. When you analyze your progress, you’ll know sooner than later that an approach you’re taking isn’t panning out. You can then correct things as needed to get you and your team back on track. Or if a goal you once thought realistic becomes impossible, you can redirect your team to more feasible, important tasks.

5 Don’t multitask

Well, it’s been another trip around the sun and another holiday season – and it’s likely been an extended period away from work. So it’s natural if you enter the new year with an urge to catch up on work in whatever way possible. That can often mean multitasking, but it really shouldn’t.

There’s science to back this notion. According to a University of Georgia study revised in August 2020, simultaneously working on more than one task lessens your productivity and focus. So, in many ways, this new year productivity tip speaks for itself. Multitasking is antithetical to productivity, and science proves it!

6 Do take breaks

Presumably, your temptation to multitask stems from the notion that you won’t be productive unless you’re constantly working. We get it – we’ve totally been there. But research has shown that breaks foment more productivity, not less. So in the new year, make taking additional breaks one of your resolutions.

A year full of meaningful breaks can bolster your creativity, good habits, and mental health. These factors reinforce productivity, so in a way, taking breaks benefits your output levels twice over. So, seriously – this year, take those breaks! You deserve them.

7 Dress the part

Another new year productivity tip with scientific backing: Dressing for the job can make you more productive. Sure, we’ve all worked from home in the clothes we woke up in at some point. However, a Columbia study reported in Social Psychological and Personality Science study found immense value in dressing the part.

This study found a positive correlation between dressing up for work and cognition, abstract processing, and motivation. Combined, all these factors make for a more productive workday. And when you dress the part every day, you make for a productive new year.

8 Stick to your schedule

Think about the last time you set a task for a certain time and just kept kicking the can down the road. How did you feel when you actually got around to that task? We’ll guess – unmotivated and uninterested. There’s a reason for that.

When you deviate too much from your schedule, it’s much tougher to feel as invested in your work. And that, of course, makes for less productive work sessions. Plus, if you start late or have to end early, you get less done during your work hours. The result is, of course, less productivity.

9 Track your time and tasks

A time and task management system can help make your workdays more efficient, if efficiency is one of your New Year’s productivity goals. It can also help you figure out how long each task takes so you can better plan your future workdays. Set deadlines for each task, arrange them into a calendar and track the time spent on each task. Use that data to better prepare for the weeks and months ahead.

That said, sometimes, time tracking and task management software platforms come separately rather than together. You’ll need to integrate them to make the best of this new year productivity tip, but good news – doing so should be quick. And then, so too will be your work.

10 Eliminate distractions

Admittedly, as a record number of teams work remotely, eliminating distractions is tougher than ever. After all, with your TV just a room away (or even right in front of you), why would you want to work even if you love your job? Well, you wouldn’t, but maybe one of your new year’s resolutions is to be more focused and organized at work. In that case, eliminating distractions is a great New Year’s productivity tip.

Start by removing any obvious distractions, whether everyday items such as your phone or a hobby that you might prefer to work on instead of getting through your to-do list. If your team does need phones for work, consider providing them with phones to be used for work only. After you do so, encourage your teams to put their personal phones in a drawer out of reach so distractions don’t tempt them.

You can also suggest that employees who work from home create a dedicated workspace and stick to a recurring schedule. This way, when it’s 2 p.m. and working in front of the TV gets tiresome, your team members won’t ditch work for YouTube. Relegating oneself to a work desk during certain days and times can help ward off those irresistible urges for distractions.

11 Delegate more of your work

As a team leader, you might find it hard to feel productive when you have a buffet of tasks in front of you. How can you possibly manage to get it all done in a single day? It’s a trap that’s especially easy to fall into as a team leader. After all, you probably feel like it’s on you to steer the ship. But every captain has ample assistance, and you should too. In other words, you should commit to delegating some of your work when the task list gets too long.

Delegation typically starts with asking team members capable of executing tasks to take them off your plate. In many cases, simply asking is all it takes, but sometimes, your team members might have stuffed plates of their own. In that case, delegation can involve hiring outside consultants, freelancers, or temporary team members to help carry the load. Either way, with additional hands on deck, your ship is more likely to sail through the waters more efficiently (and with less stress).

12 Stay healthy

A proper work-life balance is important, but some of what you do outside work can affect your on-the-clock productivity. This notion makes sense almost immediately when you think about it. If you’re not sleeping well, won’t work feel like an absolute slog? That feeling is roughly the opposite of productivity. Sleeping well is just one of the many healthy habits you can develop to be more productive. (And then, you can encourage your team to do the same!)

13 Always hit deadlines

Picture this: You’ve set a big slate of deadlines, but you’re just not meeting them. That doesn’t sound very productive, does it? Maybe it also sounds like a dreadful, stressful state to find yourself. The good news is that, with proper planning, you can always hit your deadlines and avoid this unproductive scenario. In fact, as you prepare for a new year, preparing to always hit your deadlines is among the easier steps you can take.

To start, you should know how to properly set deadlines. That means familiarizing yourself with an idea known as Parkinson’s Law. This law states that work, like a liquid, expands to fill its container – the time between when you start and when you finish. Put more simply, if you give yourself too much time to complete a task, you’ll find all kinds of ways to dilly-dally. But when you set a realistic deadline – maybe even a slightly tight one – you’ll eliminate the dilly-dallying.

The result is, of course, more productivity. At the same time, saying you’ll set better deadlines and actually doing so are two different things. To make good on this new year productivity tip, make your deadlines actionable and personalized. Write your deadlines down, set reminders, and think about Hofstadter’s Law. This theory essentially says that your work will always take longer than expected. With better planning this new year, you can minimize that challenge.

14 Hold meetings with purpose

If improving your meetings is among your new year’s resolutions, a great new year productivity tip is to be more intentional with all things meetings. That can mean taking ample time to craft meeting agendas and ensuring that everyone attending sees the agenda beforehand. It can also mean soliciting peer feedback on the agenda so everything to discuss makes it into the conversation. Any steps you take to firm up your meetings should make them more productive.

It also helps to familiarize yourself with the many types of meetings you should hold regularly.  This way, you’ll know when a meeting you’re thinking of holding is actually necessary or a poor use of time. 

Among the meetings you should hold are team meetings and one-on-one meetings. Your team meetings should occur weekly, and your one-on-ones – yes, with each person on your team – should occur weekly or biweekly. If you’ve planned these meetings properly, you can use them to efficiently align your team toward a unified set of goals. This all is especially true if you use meeting software to facilitate your conversations.

Here come another 365 days of productivity!

Maybe the tip from the above list that most appeals to you is taking breaks, dressing the part, or holding meetings. In any case, all of these new year productivity tips are pretty easy to achieve! Especially the one about meetings – well, that is, if you use Fellow to plan, execute, and follow through on your conversations. With Fellow’s tools for creating meeting agendas, assigning meeting action items, obtaining peer feedback, and plenty more, you’ll have the most productive meetings possible.