As we get deeper and deeper into the dark days of winter, I thought now would be as good of a time as any to pass along some tips and tricks I’ve picked up on staying motivated during this time of year. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it harder to get out of bed in the morning when it seems like you’re living in constant darkness, but since things aren’t changing for another 44 days (I’m keeping count to the solstice) finding ways to cope in the meantime are crucial.
- Wake up early
Despite the sun not wanting to get up until close to 8am, if you were an early riser when the sun was try to stick with it. I find that I always have a more productive (and in general more positive) day the earlier I get up. I know some people are better night owls, but with the night feeling almost constant, try to take advantage of the small number of daylight hours we have in the winter.
This is really stereotypical, but I swear by it. Me before the gym = sluggish, unmotivated, ready to eat and nap. Me after the gym = ready to power walk to that Spotify playlist ‘Walk Like a You-Know-What’ and take on the world. I think we naturally coop ourselves up indoors during the winter and I know personally my Uber tab skyrockets because I can’t be bothered walking in the rain, sleet, and wind, but that also means I’m moving a lot less than I normally would. Getting your endorphins pumping and your body warmed up from a nice wee sweat is super motivating in the winter months.
- Establish a routine
Even outwith the winter, a routine is super beneficial in the PhD process. I still struggle with finding the right routine for me, but I’ve gotten better about structuring my weekdays and weekends differently, as opposed to letting my weekdays blend into my weekends during my first year. Some people prefer weekend work (I always liked having the office to myself when I came in to work on the weekends) but if you don’t structure your time, it’s very easy to overwork yourself.
- Make appointments
Sometimes the only thing that gets me out of bed and to the Uni on a dark, rainy day, are appointments I’ve made. Be it a supervisory meeting, a workshop, or even a simple coffee catch-up with friends, setting appointments can help convince you to make the trek to the office (or at least out of the flat) when you would otherwise convince yourself to stay in all day.
- Set proper downtime
Along with giving yourself a routine to follow, factoring downtime into this routine is essential to your health and well being. You know what they say about not working where you sleep or eat? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do all three from bed once in awhile, but I can say I am 100% less productive when I do so than when I work from my desk at home or office at Uni (or even cafes!) and then let myself relax in a separate space when I’m done. Being able to come home and not think about my to-do list and instead eat and watch some catch-up TV or read some *gasp* fiction, is the best. Same goes for making my workweek a high productivity time and weekend for fun and friends- I find coming back on a Monday so much more satisfying after a couple days off than if I’ve been dragging myself to push on for endless days in a row. You need breaks, you deserve breaks, don’t let you talk yourself out of them!
- Get some sleep
When I’m on my A-game, I start winding down at about 9pm with a cup of sleepytime tea, some of that amazing LUSH Sleep lotion, a calming-scented candle and a book. During the winter I tend to feel like it’s super late at about 6pm and get tired, but then shake myself awake to make the most of the rest of my night and end up not actually winding down until well past 11pm, often midnight. Our sense of time during the dark months gets so wonky, but by listening to your body when it’s starting to get sleepy (even if it is 6pm) and letting yourself sleep earlier, you’re letting yourself find a rhythm and routine even if the natural day/night signifiers of when to sleep and wake don’t. Listen to what your body needs during this time, and make sure you are getting some sleep even if you feel like you need to stay up to battle the extended dark hours.
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