Avoiding the Post-Holiday Lull

January is the least productive month of the year. Here’s how to get back in the swing of things in the new year.

Published: Jan 2, 2020

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By the time the holiday prep and celebrations are over, you can often find yourself feeling completely spent. After all, it's hard to recover after the rushing mentality that December brings, both personally and professionally. So it's no surprise that one analysis by an organizational software maker found that in January we only complete 7.2% of our yearly tasks--compared to 8.3% if such tasks were spread out evenly over the 12 months. 

Part of that drop in productivity isn’t really up to the average worker: large projects that need big budgets can often be pushed from the first quarter, and it can take your colleagues a long time to get back into the swing of things, even if you are one of the ones who are ready.

The January slow period gives you a great opportunity to network within your office.

But there are things you can do on your own to ensure that you’re not stretching out your holiday stress into the new year—and get ahead so that when your organization or team is ready to ramp up, you’re already there.

Reorganize your workspace.

We know this can sound quaint: refresh the space you work in and you’ll feel ready to conquer the day. But some studies show that neater environments can help you find what you need more quickly, feel less distracted, and be more productive. A clean desk can also help mute the overwhelming feeling you can experience when you do return to work. “When you have a lot on your plate physically, it creates a mental block,” says David Ginchansky, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach. The same goes for your email inbox and calendars; doing a digital cleanup can also help you locate things faster and feel more streamlined.

Write the biggest to-do list of your life.

Before you roll your eyes, think about how good it can feel to have a road map for the next year. Taking time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you want to go with your career in the next year can set you up for success—particularly if you focus on what’s under your control, regardless of clients or bosses, says Kelly Poulson, a career coach based in Philadelphia. Once you’ve written down these goals, you can plot out steps to get there. If you want to become a better public speaker, for example, you can aim to attend a Toastmasters meeting in January. It’s important, however, not to get too specific or forget which parts of your goals just may not be under your control. If you’re looking to get promoted by March, for example, there’s a chance that may not happen due to the machinations of an organization.

Set up regular check-ins with bosses and colleagues.

The January slow period gives you a great opportunity to network within your office. Ginchansky suggests walking the down halls and reconnecting and reestablishing relationships with people you don’t normally have time to see. As for your managers, see if you can grab lunch with them this month and ask them how you can help them achieve their goals for the year. This type of approach creates an open dialogue at a time when stress levels are low, Poulson says.

Plan your next festivities.

While we’re not expecting you to be a cheerleader, we all know January blues are a real form of seasonal depression that’s brought on by the end of the holidays. As you return to work, if you need to take more breaks in order to overcome the lethargy, do so! Career experts say it’s also a good idea to plan something to look forward to. Even if it’s not for a couple months, the planning process of a vacation has been shown to bring more joy than the break itself. Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a two-week excursion through Europe, weaving such planning into your post-holiday routine will help you skate through those January doldrums.

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