Autumn is like the sunset of the seasons. At first the world is more colourful. Then, the days become shorter, darker and less inviting outside. In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s easy to shrug this off as something we should simply tolerate. But rather than quietly suffer through it, what if fall is a disguised opportunity to be more productive and creative?
The main impact of this shift tends to be our levels of energy throughout the day, and subsequently our ability to deliver our best work. If you’re an outlier who relishes in the change of the season, this post may not be for you. But for most people, there are deliberate practices we can integrate throughout the week to combat seasonal changes and still maintain high levels of energy. Here are four:
1. Pomodoros with movement breaks
The idea behind the Pomodoro Technique is to work in 25 minute sprints and take 5 minute breaks. It’s leveraging the fact that our minds were not designed to be focused on a specific task for long periods of time without pause, and protect us from distractions.
If you tend to procrastinate, prioritize tasks that are not important, or get distracted easily, Pomodoros are a great way to focus and better manage your mental energy.
TIP: Use an actual timer – don’t guestimate when your 25 minutes are over. I use the free version of Be Focused to track my Pomodoros. Sitting is the new smoking, aim to move your body during the breaks.
2. Dial in your morning ritual
Even if you’re not a self-identified morning person, you can still benefit from having a restorative morning routine. It’s up to you how simple or complex it should be. For some people, it’s a 10 minute meditation while others have a series of exercises they complete.
The alternative to having a deliberate morning ritual is inviting distractions to interrupt how your day starts. Usually the cause is our phones, which are a landmine for distractions and a mental energy drain.
TIP: Start by giving yourself a chunk of time to work with (15 minutes or more). Then, pick something restorative to fill that time such as meditation, movement, writing, drinking water or tinkering on a passion project.
3. Dance or improv classes
In the winter, it’s tempting to hibernate, just like the bears. We like the coziness of warm homes and familiar company, especially our friends Netflix and HBO. One of the best experiments I’ve tried was to enrol in drop-in, beginner dance classes. It forces you to be social with a bunch of strangers and deal with all of your self judgements in a totally accepting way – while also having a ton of fun.
Perhaps what I loved most about dance class – which is very similar to improv – is the culture of positive reinforcement. I didn’t believe it until I had to “dance battle” an instructor that you don’t have to be good to dance, and it’s okay to mess up. When I expected boos, I got cheers because that’s the way the culture is.
TIP: Buy the bulk passes or whatever special you’re offered. It will force you to return; and, trust it will get easier and even more enjoyable with practice.
4. Weekly nature walks
Unless you’re living somewhere tropical, spending time outside during wintertime can be daunting. In North America, the West Coast is notoriously wet and everything east of it gets extremely cold. However, spending quality time in nature could be one of the most powerful ways to boost your energy and mood – see this study and this study.
The key here is to schedule it, and not skip it, despite the weather. In fact, the forest is often most beautiful when it’s raining – you can see the vivid life – and the noise-cancelling effects of snow can help snap you into the present moment.
TIP: Leave your earbuds at home, and pay attention to what’s around you – colours, sounds, smells. This is how you get the meditative benefits of nature walks. If you can get outside in the morning, especially when the sun’s out, you’ll maximize the benefits according to this study.
Each of these practices are cultivated with intention, and the effect on us can be understood through the lens of energy management.
If you want to better understand this topic, and how you can maximize your use and restoration of energy as it applies to work, I’ll be hosting a free webinar with alumni UBC on Nov 5th from 12-1pm. You’ll discover how energy management is key to your productivity, creativity and collaboration.
Cole Nakatani, BCom’11, is a social entrepreneur and passionate educator. He loves leading people through hands-on and highly engaging learning experiences. That’s why Cole co-founded Hydra Learning Labs, which specializes in curriculum design, facilitation and training.
He’s worked with some of the top entrepreneurship hubs, universities and tech companies across Canada to design and deliver innovative courses and workshops in-person and online, which have impacted thousands of students and professionals across Canada. Cole is also a certified Integral Associate Coach (IAC), working with startup founders and business owners to expand their capabilities to lead their teams and perform at their best.
Outside of work, Cole enjoys exploring ways to expand his edges, whether it be multi-day meditations and fasting, freediving deep below the surface, or trail running with his flat feet through BCs old growth forests.