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Beat the January blues with this U of T expert’s seven productivity tips

(photo by Startup Stock Photos via Flickr)

After the sleep-ins, big feasts and, in some cases, beach holidays of the previous month, it can be tough to readjust to work life in January.

But returning to the office doesn’t have to be a drag. U of T News asked John Trougakos, an associate professor of organizational behaviour and HR management in the department of management at University of Toronto Scarborough, about how to make working during the winter months more productive and pleasurable.

1. Start slow

Use your first few weeks of the year to look ahead, says Trougakos, who also teaches at the Rotman School of Management.

“Set some goals at the beginning of the year for what you'd like to achieve through the year,” he says. “That could be a good way to mentally put yourself back into it.” 

2. Catch up with work friends

If you like your co-workers, take a few minutes to grab a coffee and catch up, says Trougakos.

“Social interactions can be good for us and puts us in a good mood,” he says.

3. Find a fun diversion

“Whatever we can do to turn our mood around to make it more positive is going to translate into more energy and more productivity,” says Trougakos.

If that means watching a funny cat video on the internet, so be it, he says. But it might be a good idea to stay away from those Trump tweets.

4. Break a sweat

Join a gym or just take a stroll around the office, says Trougakos.

“We're pretty sedentary this time of year so any kind of physical activity we engage in will be positive to mood and energy,” he says.

5. Think positively

Sometimes it’s as simple as having an affirmative mindset that will get you through the gloomy winter days, says Trougakos.

“Approach your goals and your objectives from an accomplishment perspective as opposed to saying 'Oh my god, I've got to do this,'” he says.

6. Take a break

The most productive thing you could do during a workday might sound counter-intuitive, says Trougakos: It’s taking breaks.  

“People should be mindful of taking their work breaks at the times they need them before they're completely wiped out,” he says. “I would suggest scheduling your work breaks throughout the workday and not waiting until you're exhausted to take a break.”

7. Plan your workday wisely

The time of day you choose to complete specific tasks makes a big difference, says Trougakos.

“We have natural ebbs and flows to our energy throughout the workday in our productivity,” he says. “Follow them.”

We tend to be most productive in the morning between 9 and 11:30 a.m., says Trougakos.

Leave the mundane tasks for the afternoon, he says.

“That's a good time to do emails that don't require a lot of energy and simple tasks that don't require a lot of concentration or focus.”


For some people, the January blues are much more serious –  and help is available.

Resources for U of T employees can be found here. 

For students, mental-health resources can be found here.