Well, it’s September, which is crazy, because just last week I thought it was still July. The kids are all heading – or are already – back to school. Even though I haven’t attended a school since 2007, I still feel that mental shift every September. It’s a shift that makes me think some productivity tips would come in very handy.
You know the one I’m talking about.
September is when my brain goes from riding the vacation train to suddenly remembering that there’s Work! and Responsibilities!
This mental shift isn’t always easy to manage.
It can be a challenge to find The Groove. To help you get back into the swing of things, here are the productivity tips and tricks I use each September to reset my focus.
#1 Schedule your routine
Vacation mode is this relaxed, laissez-faire sensation that there’s time for everything to be done without needing to rush. Then comes September 1st, and suddenly, there’s no more time! Your alarm must be listened to! Your routine is a mess! You must get the kids to school, attend a sports match or go to meetings!
Instead, sit down and plan out your time, AKA conduct monthly and weekly reviews! Doing this allows you to consciously get back into a routine. Routines give structure and help you be your most productive self.
My Weekly Review: A Clever Cactus Guide is a how-to on weekly reviews. Here are a few additional tips to help you get back into the productivity groove:
- Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.
- Figure out which hours are your most productive. Spend this time on more challenging projects. My most productive hours are between 2pm and 5pm, and then 10pm and 2am. (I’m a night owl, hoot hoot.) So I work on big writing projects and design projects during those hours.
- Schedule your other must-dos and should-dos for your least productive hours. This includes: meetings, answering emails, social events and chores.
- Estimate how much time each task needs and distribute those tasks evenly throughout the week. This allows you to focus on one project at a time, without stressing about the other projects and ensures your days are balanced.
- Include breaks in your schedule/routine – especially if you work from home! Aim to take a stretch break every hour (I like to stretch things out on the hour, every hour).
#2 Set priorities and new goals
Not sure about you, but after I’ve coasted through the summer months, September hits me with a million and one different things that need my attention, like NOW. For some reason, in the summer, my never-ending to-do list isn’t all that big of a deal – it’s negotiable, reasonable, with no rush or deadline. But once September hits, everything needs to be completed.
I must be productive!
Sitting down and prioritizing that to-do list works wonders. Here’s a quick guide on how to prioritize your tasks:
- Write down everything on your to-do list
- Give it a priority level from 1-5 (1 being not important/urgent and 5 being very) OR number each task in order of importance/urgency.
- Pick the top five important/urgent tasks from the list and work on those first.
- When you’re done, repeat the process until you’ve worked through the entire list (this might take a day, a week, a month…)
Of all the productivity tips I have to offer, this is the one I would say is of utmost importance. If you don’t do anything else, do this. Why, you ask? Well…
First, it removes that sense of “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!”. You actively decide what needs your attention and what can wait.
Second, prioritizing is like giving yourself permission to NOT think about a task until the scheduled time. It reduces stress and allows you to focus on what’s urgent.
Finally, completing tasks from your to-do list gives you a sense of accomplishment – you’ve completed a project! You’ll want to keep the momentum going!
While you’re prioritizing, you might also come across a new goal or two. Setting fresh, new goals in September is a great way to direct your energy, and channel it into a productive autumn. Goals keep you focussed.
For the complete how-to on goals, read my Goal Setting: A Clever Cactus Guide.
#3 Learn something new
Ever heard of the September blues? Or the post-vacation slump? These exist because we’ve gone from exciting, new and fulfilling activities, back to the familiar and boring daily grind.
Add a little bit of “exciting and new” to your life by learning a new skill.
Our minds are already programmed to start learning in September. After all, we did spend our formative years doing just that on the annual. The great thing is, you don’t have to go back to school! The online learning scene has expanded in the past few years, so there are many options out there for anyone who wants to learn something new without having to go back to school.
Here are just a few of the places you can learn:
- YouTube or TikTok tutorials
- SkillShare (business + work skills)
- Udemy (skills + education)
- Khan Academy (free, education)
- MasterClass (pricey)
#4 Declutter your space
During the full summer heat, I can’t clean. I try – almost passed out once because of it – but I can’t. September’s cool weather removes the heat-haze that blinds me, and reveals just how messy and cluttered my office truly is.
And let me tell you… it’s VERY messy.
(I’ve been using it as storage for everything I haven’t put away since June.)
This clutter and mess is distracting. It contributes to stress and makes it hard to stay focussed on work. One podcaster I love listening to is Gretchen Rubin. She has a book called: “Outer order, Inner calm”. The idea is that when your environment is clear and decluttered, your emotional and mental state is also clear and decluttered. It makes room for happiness. This concept is also present in Marie Kondo’s question, “does this spark joy?”
So, what’s to be done?
You’ve heard of spring cleaning, now it’s time for a September cleaning! The cooler weather means you won’t get heat exhaustion (great news for me) and the final results will give you a happiness rush.
When all the clutter is gone, you’ll be able to focus!
If you’re not able to clean everything in one go, that’s okay! Chop the process into steps; one day, focus on that pile of paper; sort, file, recycle and shred away. The next day, move onto the random things scattered around your office. The next day, reorganize your space and remove unneeded furniture. Keep chipping away at it, day by day, until you’ve got a clean, tidy office.
A clean space is a happy space.
#5 Remember to have fun
Just because the summer’s over doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun. Incorporating downtime, exercise, social events and more into your schedule is just as important as prioritizing your workload or planning your chores. We are social beings; just like puppies and kittens, we need to play and connect with others!
Plus, mini-vacations and rest time allow us to be at our best during work hours.
That’s why it’s one of my productivity tips – because having fun helps you enjoy life, which in turn helps you focus on work, chores, tasks and the other to-dos that litter our lists.
Here are a few of my favourite ways to make sure I’m having fun every week:
- Schedule regular (weekly or monthly) online and in person hang outs with friends
- Connect with co-workers during the workday – if you’re working remotely, this can be through the work chat; if you’re working at the office, take a walk to the water cooler during your stretch break!
- Plan your next vacation (or stay-cation, depending on your local restrictions) so you have something to look forward to.
- Get outside; fresh air does wonders for the mind and body. Plus, sometimes your brain needs time to process to come up with the perfect solution.
- Exercise – yoga, pilates, weights, running – whatever physical activity you enjoy doing, schedule time to do it!
- Have a family game night once a week.
- Plan a movie night once a week or month.
There are so many ways to have fun. Pick the thing you enjoy most and make sure you make time for it every day, week or month (depending on the activity).
A Clever Cactus planner can help you find your Productivity Groove.
I built the planner to help me stay productive all year round. Obviously, I have my slumps (I’m only human), but the planner ensures my slumps aren’t so much slumps as they are lulls. When combined with the above productivity tips, My Clever Cactus planner helps me:
- Create and prioritize my to-do list to make sure everything gets done
- Note my chores for the week so I don’t forget anything
- Set Big Goals for the year
- Stay on top of my progress
- Manage my monthly budget
- Track my habits and hours spent
- And so much more.
Check out all the Clever Cactus products in the shop – and find your September Productivity Groove.