An odd thing happened when the weather dipped precipitously last weekend. I got weirdly productive.
I filed stuff, and I hate to file stuff.
I paid bills (early). I ordered holiday concert tickets while there were still choice seats.
I ironed, too.
I know. It’s a dream life. But, hey, it occurred to me that there could be an upside to this depressing dive in temperature — a spike in productivity.
If I can’t jump on my bike, walk to a farmers market, read outside on my deck until 9 p.m. or rake (pity!), I might as well tackle my growing to-do list.
Audrey Thomas, a Bloomington-based productivity expert and owner of Organized Audrey (organizedaudrey.com), sees some truth in my unscientific theory.
She grew up on a farm where looming winter blasts spurred robust gathering, harvesting and canning.
“Every fall, my husband laughs at me as I begin to stock things in my freezer and hunker down,” Thomas said. “It’s almost like the nesting stage [of pregnancy], when you’re confined to home and are really, really productive.
“It’s that feeling of focusing, because nothing else is going on.”
Cathy Sexton, owner of St. Louis-based the Productivity Experts (theproductivityexperts.com), never correlated colder temps with efficiency — until last weekend, when her city also was hit with a nasty blast of cold.
“I didn’t even want to go shopping,” she said. “I purged some, cleaned some, went in and organized my sewing room, so that when I get the urge I can go in there and start sewing.”
She added, “In the winter, we tend to think about getting organized.”
And here’s some good news for managers. Your bundled-up employees might bring that productive spirit to the office, too.
Matt Norman, the Edina-based president of Dale Carnegie-North Central U.S., said that employee engagement correlates directly to satisfaction with one’s supervisor. In other words, the stronger your bond to your boss, the happier you are at work.
It’s possible, Norman said, that supervisor-employee relationships grow stronger in the colder months “because we see each other more often.”
He said, “We’re not on summer vacations, or rushing home to barbecue with friends. There’s more work-life blending in the winter months, and we tend to be more engaged in our work.”
(Note to bosses: If you’re not yet seeing that robust work spirit, bring in some hot chocolate.)
For those of you who feel that you’d rather take a nap, consider a few things about productivity:
You do have it in you. Some people are naturals at making lists and crossing off items. But everyone can learn to increase their productivity.
“People think they’re either born this way or they’re not, the right-left brain thing,” Sexton said. “But that’s a myth. Even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s a skill you can learn.”
A list will help. Sexton is big on “brain dumps,” where you put everything down on paper you want, or need, to tackle. “You might have 20 items,” she said. “Pick three.”
(She offers a few ideas: Clean out the spare room to ready it for holiday guests. Start your Christmas cards. Pick out a few new recipes and try them.)
Pick a partner. A spouse, a friend or a child (possibly bribed with a gift card) could be key to successful productivity. Sexton enlisted her grown daughter last year to help her clean out a room.
“She’s an anal, anal productivity partner,” Sexton said in a loving way. “She doesn’t have an emotional attachment to things. She asked, ‘Why are you keeping that?’ ”
Getting stuff done will make you feel good. Even simple tasks, such as going through boxes or tidying up a shelf, bring a level of satisfaction to people.
“Being productive is doing the things you know you need to get done effectively and efficiently,” she said.
“And what better time to go through boxes of stuff than as we move into the new year?”