Winter schedule changes that will keep you productive

Winter is here and with it comes cooler weather, shorter days and holiday fun that often leave us exhausted.

It's hard to get everything done during those short winter days. After all, our workload doesn't get any smaller, no matter how early the sun goes down.

To help you get everything done on time this winter, we've gathered some schedule-changing tips that will keep your motivation at its peak through the cold months.

1. Work Shorter Days When Possible

With the holidays coming up and everyone itching to use all that vacation time, it's tempting to try to squeeze as much time out of every day as humanly possible.

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Instead of pulling 12 hour days at work and racking up that overtime, shorten your days and make the time that you work that much more productive.

The common 40-hour workweek came from the mind of automotive genius Henry Ford, who found that shortening his workers days actually increased their productivity.

Studies have even found that working a 60-hour week for an extended length of time can lead to cumulative productivity loss.

Instead of focusing on the number of hours you spend at work, try focusing on what you do during those hours. Plan your days down to the minute, but once you hit that 8-hour mark, call it a day and head home.

2. Take More Breaks

Working through breaks or eating lunch at your desk might seem like a great way to squeeze a little bit more out of each day, but it's actually killing your productivity and making it harder for you to remember important facts.

First, taking a break keeps you from getting bored. If you're doing a repetitive task, it's easy to get fed up, and once that happens, you lose focus. A study done by the University of Illinois found that a brief break, even as short as a couple minutes, helps you reset your mind and regain your focus.

That same short break can also help you to retain information. Studies have found that we retain information and make connections best when we allow our minds to wander. If anyone complains about a couple minutes spent daydreaming, just tell them that you're committing things to memory.

3. Find Ways To Sleep In...

Shorter days mean that many of us are going to work or coming home in the dark. Getting out of a warm bed is hard enough when the air is cold, so doing it in the dark is almost impossible.

Most of us wake up with the sun. Science has even shown that levels of melatonin, the hormone that regulate your sleep cycle, begin to reduce steadily as the sun starts to rise.

That means that if you're climbing out of bed in the dark, your body is still producing melatonin, which leads to sluggishness and an overindulgence in caffeine.

If you can sleep in and reset your schedule to later in the day, it can do wonders for your productivity. You'll be able to get more done at the beginning of your shift because you're not dragging yourself out of a sleepy haze just to get to the office.

4. ... Or Exercise Early

If altering your work schedule and sleeping in isn't an option, consider an early exercise regimen to wake up and get you ready for the day.

Exercising first thing in the morning is a great way to boost your energy levels, improve your brain function and even elevate your mood.

Your body releases endorphins during exercise that elevate your mood and even alleviates symptoms of depression and SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

Even a simple morning yoga routine can do wonders for your morning energy level and productivity during the winter.

5. Enjoy The Empty Office

You're probably anxious to cash in those vacation days that you've worked so hard throughout the year to accumulate, so working during your holiday is probably the last thing you want to do.

However, if you've got the chance to slip into the office on one of those days when your teammates or colleagues are away for the holidays, you might be surprised at how productive you can be.

A 2008 study by the University of Calgary found that working alone, without the distraction of other workers, actually helps improve your productivity. The researchers found that when working alone, individual workers were able to complete their tasks faster. When working in a group with other participants completing different tasks nearby, productivity suffered.

Working during the holidays is also a great way to set yourself apart as an ambitious and hardworking individual to upper management.

Wintertime is a great time of year for snuggling up under a warm blanket with a good book and a cup of your favorite hot drink, but it's also be a great time to be productive.

Hopefully these techniques, backed up by science, will help you be at your most productive during the cold winter months.

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