11 ideas for a productive January

January can often feel a bit bleak at the best of times, but when you factor in our current climate, it’s understandable that we may feel even more flat. Another national lockdown isn’t the way anyone hoped to start the year, and if you’re feeling frustrated and uninspired, you’re certainly not alone. But although the start of 2021 may look different to other years, January is still a chance to turn the page and start afresh.

Although we can’t control the larger events going on around us, it can be helpful to try and focus on the things we can control instead – and there are still lots of ways we can get creative and stay occupied. 

If you’re hoping to have a productive New Year, here are 11 different ways you can make the most of January from the comfort of your own home.

1. Develop a new self-care habit

It might sound a bit contradictory, but if we want to be more productive, then one of the most important things we can do is give ourselves a break, and make time to relax. For many of us, the pandemic has taken its toll on our mental health, and with ‘normal’ life still somewhat elusive, it’s crucial to be kind to ourselves. Many of us are so busy with work, family and general responsibilities that we frequently get to the end of each day without having taken any real time for ourselves.

So, one of the best things you can do this January is to start practicing self-care, and make it a habit that you commit to throughout the year. Simply blocking off 30 minutes each day just for yourself can help you feel restored and protect your mental health and wellbeing. What you chose to do with that time is up to you – you could have a bath, go for a run, do some yoga, practice mindfulness, or read a book – but the key thing is to carve out some ‘me-time’ in the day to spend precisely how you want. For more ideas on how to look after your mental and physical health over the next few weeks, you might find it useful to read our article; 33 self-care ideas to boost your mental and physical health this winter.

2. Do a winter clean

As we continue to navigate our way through the pandemic, it’s understandable that many of us will be feeling stressed and low. While cleaning your home isn’t a cure-all, having a clean, tidy home is proven to reduce stress and improve happiness. So what better way to welcome 2021 than by giving your house a winter clean? This won’t only make your home look refreshed for the start of the New Year, but it can also help re-energise your mood.

The first thing that it can be most helpful to do when doing a winter clean, is to take down all your Christmas decorations and put them away (if you haven’t already done so). While you’re sorting through Christmas stuff, you might also want to collect any unwanted gifts and set them aside so you can take them to a charity shop once lockdown is over. Or to find out how to sell any unwanted items online, check out our guide; How to make money from your clutter.

Once you’ve gotten rid of any remaining Christmas clutter, you might want to take some time to give your home a deep clean. This may not be the easiest or most enjoyable task, but one way to make it more fun is to play upbeat music while you clean and make the process as fun and energetic as you can. Cleaning can be a surprisingly effective form of cardio, and chores like vacuuming and mopping the floors can burn lots of calories. Plus, this way you won’t only be able to enjoy a cleaner, less cluttered home once you’re done – you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing you got some exercise in, too. For more tips and tricks on how to declutter and reorganise your home, have a read of our article here.

3. Set some fitness goals

Prioritising your health and fitness this January is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your mental wellbeing as well as your physical health, and during a time when many of us are feeling stressed, anxious or isolated, it becomes even more crucial to factor in fitness. Setting fitness goals and aiming to do more exercise is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions – but on colder, darker days, committing to exercising regularly can be challenging.

Whether you hope to run a marathon, lose some weight, or just want to improve your general fitness, setting yourself some goals is a great way to start the year with positivity – and whatever your goal is, making an exercise plan is one of the best ways to help you stick to a routine and achieve your goals. Remember that no matter how difficult a fitness plan is to start, if you keep at it, it will become part of your normal routine. For more ideas on staying fit this January, have a read of our guide to winter fitness motivation.

4. Try Dry January

Many of us would like to cut back on drinking, and after the excess of Christmas and New Year, January is the perfect time to do so. Rather than simply reducing your alcohol intake for a while, why not take part in the Dry January challenge, and commit to a whole month without booze? It doesn’t matter if you missed the start of January: you can commit to 31 days of no drinking at any time of the year. The benefits of being sober for a month are powerful: 86% of participants save money, 70% of participants report better sleep, and 66% have more energy.

Plus, while there’s nothing wrong with having an occasional drink, many of us are in the habit of reaching for alcohol after a hard day’s work, or when we feel sad or stressed. Taking part in the Dry January challenge isn’t only a great way to improve your health, it can also help you reject unhealthy coping mechanisms, and perhaps develop healthy new habits instead. If you’d like support with taking part in Dry January, visit the website to download the app or sign up for coaching emails.

5. Take part in Veganuary

If you like a challenge but don’t fancy Dry January, then why not take part in Veganuary? Veganuary is an annual campaign that encourages people to try a plant-based lifestyle for a month – although just like Dry January, you can do this at any time of the year. Last year, more than 400,000 people signed up for the initiative, and this year it’s predicted that around 500,000 people will take part. With multiple eateries adding more vegan items to their menus this month, it’s a great way to try new food – especially when so many restaurants are currently closed.

The benefits of a plant-based diet can be very powerful. Studies show that diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes are linked to animal products, and switching to a vegan diet can prevent and treat some of the leading causes of death, like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Aside from the health benefits, a comprehensive analysis by Oxford University found that moving to a plant-based diet is the “single-biggest way” to reduce your impact on Earth – so knowing you’re doing something so helpful for the planet (and animals, of course!) can be a positive way to start the year. If you’re interested in learning more about Veganuary, head over to the website where you can get easy meal plans, helpful tips, delicious recipes and tailed support, all for free.

6. Check the health of your car

Many of us used our cars far less in 2020 than any other year – but just because we may not have made many long journeys, this doesn’t mean we should neglect the health of our car. Breaking down isn’t fun at any time of year, but in winter, when it’s cold, dark and icy outside, it can become a real risk. And while you can always take your car to a garage, doing a basic car maintenance test is something most of us are able to do from home.

To give your car a thorough winter health check, you’ll need to check the tyres, coolant, lights, wipers, oil, brakes, batteries and bodywork: have a read out this article by Admiral to find out more. For more information on car repairs you can do yourself, have a read of our article on practical DIY skills you can learn from home.

7. Send thank you cards for Christmas gifts

In 2020, many of us became acutely aware of how important it is to feel connected to others, and how often it’s the small things that have the biggest impact. With that in mind, why not unleash your creative skills and make some thank you cards to show people how much you appreciate them, as well as any Christmas gifts you received?

Check out these thank you card designs by Wonderful DIY; whether you’re skilled at arts and crafts or have only ever bought cards before, there’ll hopefully be a design here you fancy replicating. Or why not try your hand at calligraphy, and write a beautiful and personal thank you letter to a loved one? Learning calligraphy is relaxing and meditative, and an enjoyable way to spend a January afternoon. Have a read of our introduction to calligraphy guide to learn more.

8. Clean out your closet

If you have a wardrobe full of clothes but nothing to wear – or your wardrobe is messy, cluttered and disorganised – then why not start the new year by introducing some order to your clothes? Many people dream of downsizing and living a more minimalistic life, and cleaning out your closet is one of the best places to start. The easiest way to organise your wardrobe is to put everything in three piles: keep, sell or donate, and recycle (find out where to recycle clothing and textiles near you, here). Another good rule of thumb is the ‘six month rule’: if you haven’t worn a certain item in the past six months, and don’t think you’ll wear it in the next six months, the chances are you won’t ever wear it! 

Parting with old clothes can be difficult, especially if you’re a bit of a hoarder or you hold onto things because they have sentimental value, but having a clean, decluttered wardrobe is a great way to feel more organised, and avoid wasting time in the morning wondering what to wear. Plus, donating the clothes to charities always feels good. Have a read of this article by Minimalism Made Easy for more tips on cleaning out your closet.

9. Learn a new skill

One of the most positive things to emerge from 2020’s lockdowns were the stories of people learning new skills. Whether it was baking banana bread, teaching yourself a new language or writing a book, learning a new skill or picking up a new hobby isn’t just a way to keep yourself busy – it’s also an effective way to give your confidence a boost and improve your mood and wellbeing. Hopefully, the current lockdown will be the last, but whatever happens in 2021, learning a new skill is incredibly rewarding – and as the past year proved, it’s never too late to pick up a new hobby.

If you’re not sure what skill you’d like to learn, why not have a read of some of our guides to learning from home? If you’d like to learn something creative, check out our article on nine creative skills you can learn from home  – from creative writing to needlework to photography. Alternatively, you might want to try learning a digital skill like coding, copywriting, design or video production. For more inspiration, have a visit of the learning section on the Rest Less website.

10. Make a reading list

On an especially cold and dark day, many of us might not be in the mood to have a big clear out, or give our car a service – but having a lazy day doesn’t mean you still can’t be productive. Curling up with a good book is a great way to spend a January afternoon – and the right book can provide you with a welcome dose of motivation, too. Why not try making a reading list for the year, where you commit to getting through all those books you’ve always intended to read but never have? Then, when you’re not feeling too energetic, you can always pick up a book and spend a few productive hours being transported to another world.

If you want some reading recommendations that are perfect for January, check out our winter reading list guide: from books set in the blistering Arctic cold, to novels set on sun-drenched tropical island, to self-improvement titles that will give you a burst of New Year’s motivation, there’s hopefully something for everyone here.

11. Defrost the freezer and clean the fridge

Cleaning the fridge and deforesting the freezer are often overlooked when it comes to organising the house – but after the excess of the festive period, January is probably one of the best times to clear out our fridges and freezers. It’s a good time to get rid of any expired foods, or items you know you probably won’t get around to eating. It’s usually best to be relatively ruthless here; if you’ve had a jar of chutney sitting in your fridge door for a few years, it’s better to cut your losses and get rid of it. Rather than throwing it out, however, you might want to download the OLIO app, where you can give away unwanted food and household items to your neighbours (this can be done in a socially distanced way).

Many new freezers don’t need to be manually defrosted, but if you have an older style freezer that tends to get iced up, you’ll probably need to defrost it now and then. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be a messy or time-consuming task – have a read of this guide to find out how to easily defrost your freezer. During a time when many of us are planning to eat more healthily, having a clean, organised fridge and freezer makes meal-planning that bit more enjoyable. If you’d like some tips on how to best organise your fridge, have a read of this article by Good Housekeeping.

Final thoughts…

During the cold, winter days, many people are keen to hide out at home – and in our current climate, that unfortunately may be a necessity. But staying at home doesn’t mean you can’t stay productive. Whether it’s learning a new skill, organising your wardrobe, or trying a new health challenge, there are so many ways you can keep busy and improve yourself from home.

For more ideas on fun activities that you can help you embrace the winter season, check out our article. And remember, now the longest night is over, the countdown to spring has officially begun, and bright mornings and sunny afternoons will be here before you know it.

Have you got any ideas for staying productive in January – or are you inspired by any of our suggestions? We’d love to hear from you! Leave us a comment below, or join the conversation on the community forum.

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