How to Combat the Winter Work Lull

Before anyone says anything, I fully realize the irony in this being my first post here at WWD in quite a while. And that’s part of this story. If you’re reading this from southern Australia, you may not appreciate how mind-numbing the depths of a true winter season can be. I’m staring out my window right now at the snowstorm currently going on in the -5°F weather, trying to convince myself that no, I cannot in fact survive another day without going to the grocery store.

During those long months, when you can’t remember what the sun looks like and are slightly surprised at its appearance in films and on television, productivity can take a major nosedive, along with mood and attitude. As a long veteran of Canadian winters, I like to think that I’m prepared for the changes that major weather upheavals can cause in a person, but I never cease to be shocked by the strength of the effects. Accordingly, I’ve put together a list of ways to either get over — or work through — the funk. 

Take a Vacation

As mentioned above, I’ve been less than active here during the past few weeks. That’s partly because my cup was temporarily running over with work elsewhere, but it’s also because I decided to step back and take a significant chunk of time off for the first time in about a year. Making a decision about stepping back from work for a while is far preferable to the alternative, which is continuing to try to maintain a regular schedule, and having the quantity and quality of your work suffer as a result.

Planned time off, with a definite ending, will help you feel focused and eager when you do eventually get back to work. If you love what you do, that is. If you still find yourself dragging your heels, you might want to take a long hard look at what it is you’re doing that isn’t satisfying any longer.

Lower Your Expectations

A big part of the problem of trying to fight the winter doldrums is that people are often their own worst critics. Getting into a blame cycle with yourself won’t help you get work done any faster. In fact, you’ll probably get a lot less done, and just give up on days where you could otherwise have gotten at least a little bit ahead.

If you are perennially cursed by a lower work ethic as the thermometer mercury dips lower, then acknowledge and prepare for that eventuality. The best way to do that is to work more during the months that you feel more productive, and generally behave like a squirrel getting ready for the lean winter months. That way, when you’re doing less than your maximum potential output, you won’t feel nearly as guilty about it, and you’re less likely to get caught in negative attribution patterns. Believe me, if I could actually hibernate, I probably would, but this is the next best thing.

Stay Fit, Active and Healthy

As at-home workers, we’re already severely at risk of falling into a sedentary lifestyle, and that risk is amplified a hundred fold when the outside environment seems intent on killing us. Go out of your way to counter the impulse to stay inside and remain immobile, and I promise that after a few days you’ll feel much, much better for having done so.

Make sure your fruit and vegetable intake stays high, at least on par with what you normally take in during the summer. My registered dietitian friend couldn’t stress this enough. She also recommended taking Vitamin D supplements to make up for the absence of sunlight that normally provides this much-needed nutrient to our systems.

Sign up for a gym near enough to your house that you won’t be discouraged from going by the weather. Failing that, invest in a good Tai Chi or yoga DVD and treat it as a necessary part of your work day, akin to filling out invoices or checking your email.

It’s Only a Season

My parting advice for those of you plagued with a long cold winter, Canadian or otherwise, is to remember that it doesn’t last forever, despite sometimes appearing to. Keep that always in mind, and strap on some skates or grab a toboggan and remember that the cruelest season does have some advantages over its gentler cousins.

How do you work through — or avoid — the winter work lull?