the fresh start effect

The fresh start effect, when you have a boost of motivation just after a temporal landmark like a new year (unexpected example). We’re ready for 2023 after a chaotic year full of hybrid work, a war, energy crisis and inflation. We want to set goals for better behavior and we have this free boost of motivation so let’s use it.

In this era of hybrid work, remote work, work from anywhere, digital nomad, work from home, quiet quitting, 4 days week or any new work trend, it looks like we’re seeking for better work life balance. Great, how to work smarter, stay productive and save time for everything else other than work ?

I’m not a researcher so I can’t explain to you what is the fresh start effect. There are plenty of articles about it. We all know the concept : the motivation is higher at the beginning of a new cycle, at least we are more willing to set goals for new beginnings. Many companies use this to boost not their motivation but their sales : diet consultation, learning courses, new outfits, gym club offers… Why not use this ‘fresh start effect’ to gain new habits in our (not so) well balanced work/personal lives and try to keep them all year long. It sounds obvious but why do we fail every year ?


Instead of changing everything at once, I do prefer to take small steps. I want to workout every morning so I’ve started with 10 push-ups daily then the week after I’ve added more push-ups and new moves progressively. Same for reading, I’ve started with a goal of 5 pages every night before sleeping. How difficult is it to stick with such a minimalist goal ? It’s easy. The idea is to use the fresh start effect to start small steps but in the right direction. It takes time but the long term value seems higher to me and it’s easier to stick with these new habits. Without noticing, with little effort (at least at the beginning), I’ve gained new great habits. Then it’s not so difficult either to go from there to 15 and 10 because I took the habit to do 10 and 5 effortlessly.

So I set my big goals, even my crazy dreams and I write them, then I take small steps in this direction. Never skip, If I don’t have time or if I’m tired, I reduce it. Instead of 10 push ups, I do just one. Really, never skip. My habits have become needs.

I’ve read a lot of self help books, some of them were really good, some others could be reduced to 3 pages, any way, at least, I can always keep one concept of every one of them. I don’t pretend to provide productivity tips, it’s just what works for me. If it could inspire you, I would be happy.


Resources in the world are unlimited. There is enough money in the world, there are plenty of opportunities, there are so many people to meet, there is an unlimited amount of books to read. I don’t say oil and water are unlimited in the world, I mean the potential number of things I can do is unlimited but not my time. I have to choose.

... choisir, c'était renoncer pour toujours, pour jamais, à tout le reste et la quantité nombreuse de ce reste demeurait préférable à n'importe quelle unité. André Gide

I just accept that I won’t see and I won’t do everything I can do, so I try to choose the best things. Then I book some time in my calendar to be sure I’ll have enough time to do what I choose to do. It’s very important for me to block several time slots in advance. If I want to work on a side project, I block 4 hours per week. Even for day to day life, I have a time slot every Saturday afternoon to do activities with my kids. Another time slot for training, for writing and for free time. It helps me to visualize what I have to do and see if something new can be added or if I have to choose to cancel something else due to lack of time.

I also schedule some of these time slots as recurring. As explained before, it’s easier to do something when it’s a habit. For example, every Tuesday evening for an hour, I review my financial status : bank accounts, expenses, incomes, savings. I don’t like to do this but now it’s easier to spend one hour per week as I know when I’ll do it, I can think in advance about it and be prepared. It works also for daily tasks but I prefer to have weekly cycles. It works for me to manage recurring tasks like this and I keep free time for the unexpected ones. It's obvious and it does work, do you really do it ?

I try to do tasks one by one. Multitasking is bad. That’s why I plan time in my calendar in advance, keep one hour to work on this project and don’t be distracted by something else. At work, I’ve DISABLED ALL THE NOTIFICATIONS except for the meeting, not cool to be late and disrespect the attendees. Just think about it, notifications are here to distract you from the important task you are currently working on, that’s it. What is so urgent that requires you to take immediate action ? Notifications keep me in a constant mood of emergency, my mind is never relaxed, I multitask and don’t spend focused time on important tasks. Notifications are the new evil 👺

I have some crazy dreams that require time to achieve. I end up with not enough space in my calendar. Again I had to choose. I’ve progressively stopped (reminder : small steps) wasting my time with modern entertainment. I don’t have a TV at home, I’ve removed social media apps and news apps from my smartphone, I’ve canceled my Netflix subscription and I’m more than happy about this. I don’t say my screen time is low but I don’t waste it with cat videos or binge watching. I don’t want to fill my free time with scrolling on social media… No ! I’ve downloaded the kindle app and I read books on my smartphone. Just try it, if you don’t want to pay (but why not ?), this app is free and there are thousands of free books such as must read classics.

I also keep 5 to 10 minutes per day to DO NOTHING. I've tried meditation but I may not be ready for this now. At least, I try to do nothing for several minutes several times per day. Do you remember the last time you were absolutely doing nothing ? I think it’s better to do it at the end of the day, as I’m working from home most of the time, this break is the temporal landmark between work day and personal life for me. I receive too much information per day, when I do nothing, it’s the perfect time to absorb it correctly, to relax and to think about my main goals. It’s my secret weapon to stay so calm and cool.


To stay productive, it’s one point to manage your time but you also need to be in good shape. Every CEOs in the world is telling the same thing to stay productive : workout every morning and read books as much as possible. These guys might have a busy schedule but they still have enough time to read 50 to 60 books per year. One per week, it seems achievable.

Regarding health, of course it’s important to take care of yourself. As explained before, I try to gain new habits and workout progressively. The morning seems easier to me because at the end of the day when I’m tired, motivation to go to the gym is low. During evenings, I prefer to do team sports. I like to go and socialize with the team. Team spirit gives me more motivation. When I skip one training session, the guys remind me to not do it again, it’s some help for my motivation.

Another trick that works for me is to go to sleep early. I’ve tried to be a member of the 5am club but it was really too hard. I just keep the main concept. Instead of wasting 2 hours of your time in the evening on social media, youtube or any useless activity, I prefer to sleep and wake up early for using these 2 hours for a side project, work on personal tasks or writing when my mind is fresh.

I try to keep as much as possible 8 hours per night, it’s easier for me to be less tired and more relaxed with good sleeping. Life has unexpected things for us, sometimes I have to stay up late. In this case, I keep waking up early and I use this beautiful concept : the nap. It’s easier as I am working from home. I take a nap almost everyday, not more than 20 minutes, after lunch and I’m ready to tackle the rest of the day.

As most of us, I look at what I eat. I’ve read the 4 hour body. Not as good as the 4 hour work week, still a bestseller. I like the concept of eating, as much as possible, vegetables during the week and on Saturdays eat what you want as much as you want and go crazy. Tim Ferriss has provided tons of statistics to prove that it still helps to lose weight and also that it’s better for the body. It's a great concept, be strict and eat less during the week and on Saturdays (or Sundays if you prefer) eat what you were frustrated to not eat during the week.

I also do intermittent fasting. Again, if you don’t know what it is, read this book or any other book about intermittent fasting. I’m convinced about the benefits for my health and that it keeps me in good shape. Only black coffee and tea in the mornings (no sugar), except on Saturdays (read just above).


To find the perfect work life balance and stay productive, you have to manage your time, stay healthy and… write your thoughts in a journal (the subtitle has helped). There are many benefits of journaling. Organize your thoughts for more clarity and clear your mind of these thoughts. As I write, it helps me to find solutions. Mainly, I also like to see the trend of my progress. I mean in my journal, I write the progress of my small steps to gain new habits. You can use an Excel spreadsheet if you prefer. The idea behind journaling is to track your progress, your mood, you can see the trend and by the way where it seems you’re headed to. You can then adjust. It’s the same process as these guys who track their body statistics (heart rate, sleeping, weight…). Same idea but with journaling you track your thoughts and your life, it seems more appealing to me.

I would recommend anybody to do this, you can even start with one word to describe your mood of the day. I don’t think it has to be done everyday, again, doing this on a weekly basis is fine for me. No need to share everything to the world, just gather the best parts and post it on social media or in a blog as I do. Read this book => show your work.

When you do one small step, you don’t go so far. When you’re consistent and take small steps everyday consistently you go far away. Of course, it could take time. That’s why it’s important to track your progress, I do it by journaling but you can use anything else. I track my progress to be sure to improve a little bit more every week and when I feel it, I take big steps.

do you feel the fresh start effect ?

In one sentence, I use the motivation of this new year to make new habits, I start small but I stick to them. It has worked for me for several years so I keep this method, I still have many things to improve. These days, I read this book about mindset, it reminds me that everything that I want is outside my comfort zone and only hard work can lead me to it. The goal is the journey not the end : the efforts to progress.

When the fresh start effect will fade away because it will, I'll use the reminder below. I found it on Twitter months ago. I copy/paste it and I don’t share the twitter link because we all know that twitter will die soon 🐦

Tired —> Nap Sad —> Music Stressed —> Walk Angry —> Exercise Burnt out —> Read Feeling lost —> Pray Overthinking —> Write Anxious —> Meditate


#productivity #mindset