Anna Levy at Hub Islington writes for KindredHQ this week on the impact of the so-called January Blues, (SAD) and how we can beat them.
If you believe what you read in the papers, the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year. The idea of Blue Monday is of course a load of PR guff, based on phoney calculations around post-Christmas debt levels and the amount of time passed since failing our New Years resolutions. Nevertheless, there’s no denying this can be a gloomy, godforsaken time of the year when many of us are prone to bouts of seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
But as a freelancer or independent, you can’t afford to let the winter blues send you into a slump. So how can be sure to keep up the energy levels and motivation on track through these months?
Here are 10 tips to stay motivated throughout the winter:
- Get out of the house: According to the NHS website, a daily walk can be as effective as light treatment for dealing with the winter blues. If you work from home, getting some fresh air is even more important, so be sure to wrap up warm and take a stroll – even if the weather’s bad.
- Mix up where you work: Another way to ensure you don’t go into hibernation mode is to try out some different workspaces. Keep things fresh by alternating work in cafes, libraries and shared workspaces like the HUB. In a recent survey by Deskmag, around 70% of people using coworking spaces said that their ability to focus, think of ideas for their business and be creative had improved since working in such a space.
- Keep a cosy office: If you’re at home, make sure that the space you work in is bright, warm and comfortable. You could even install a light therapy lamp such as this desk lamp by Lumie, which is used by the NHS and fully certified.
- Take care of your health: If you don’t get sick leave, the last thing you want is an extended bout of the flu. Keep dosed up on echinacea and vitamin C, and don’t push yourself if you start to feel poorly as you may only prolong the illness. Eat well, do exercise – all the usual stuff.
- Learn something new: Another of the NHS recommendations for SAD is to take up a new hobby around this time of year, but you could also apply this to your business. Go on a course, read a book and pick up new skills or knowledge that will help you take your work in new directions. Tom Lousada is a freelance interior designer: “I find continuous learning a great way of staying motivated. Learning new skills keeps your mind active as well as expanding your repertoire.” Taking a course in something completely different from your work could also have benefits. Sometimes it’s when you encourage yourself to use different parts of the brain that you find flashes of inspiration – like Archimedes in the bath or Einstein discovering the relativity of time by spotting a clock tower from his car window – how will you get your Eureka moment?
- Write a two-month plan: Set yourself short-term goals and make sure you have new things to achieve each week throughout the winter. Rather than making big resolutions in January that are forgotten about by the spring, writer Rachel Hills sets herself monthly resolutions throughout the year: “Breaking down your plans into monthly chunks makes them less intimidating and easier to stay focused. It also means you’ll have more to look back on at the end of the year than if you set yourself one big, hard-to-achieve goal.”
- Get a mentor: Rob Reason is founder of HiddenCity and has been running his own business for two years: “I started my career in organisations where it was standard to have a mentor. It was great because they helped you free up your thinking and problem solve. It’s just as important when you’re running your own business to find an accountability partner, preferably someone who already knows you and your background and who isn’t afraid to challenge you.”
- Be sure to have meetings planned: Haven’t got a meeting? Create one! Even if the only thing you have on your list is to write a document, surely there’s someone with whom you can liaise and share ideas? Having meetings will get you out of the house, and hopefully bring fresh inspiration.
- Surround yourself with the right people: Make sure you take the time to hang out with enthusiastic friends and colleagues, preferably people who understand the life of a freelancer/entrepreneur. Ali Freeman, a freelance sustainability consultant, says: “We all sometimes feel like we’re not getting anything done, so it’s important to celebrate your achievements with loved ones who can encourage you and say they’re proud of you.
- ”Be easy on yourself: It’s especially important not to punish yourself with your work schedule at this time of year. As long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter if you get up a bit later in the dark winter mornings – after all that’s surely one of the benefits of going freelance! But plan your late starts – set your alarm for new time and get up when it goes rather than lying in. Make sure to schedule in plenty of breaks and rewards too. The Pomodoro technique, where you work for 50 mins then take a 10 min break can be an effective way of keeping motivated.
What do you do to stay energised in your work throughout the winter? I’d be interested to hear any tips you have.
Don’t forget that as a member of KindredHQ you get a discount on your first month’s membership at The Hub Islington.