Deck the halls with digital distractions, texting exes and communication breakdowns. The final Mercury retrograde of the year comes in hot this month on December 13 and scrambles our s–t straight through New Year’s Day.
If we take into account the shadow period (as we always should) the effects of the messenger planets back steppin will be felt from the first days of December into the first two weeks of 2024.
Because Mercury governs communication, technology, exchange and travel when it slows down so too does our productivity.
Paradoxically, and according to EduBirdie, December is distinguished as the least productive month of the year and the busiest with year-end work deadlines, holiday prep, familial stress and general fa-la-la-la f—ery taxing our time and our triggers.
Unsurprisingly, Some 60% of people in the US say their productivity noticeably declines in December, and 42% admit it is the most stressful time of year.
Avery Morgan, a noted productivity expert and EduBirdie’s chief communications officer, has compiled a list of seven ways to boost productivity and shake a fist in the face of fitful, trickster Mercury.
Read on, get it done and be well!
1. Listen to your body
“The long, dark months throw our circadian rhythms off, sapping our motivation, energy levels, and mental well-being. But treating it is often just a matter of listening to your body. Spend time tracking your personal energy levels — When do you feel fatigued and when do you get the most done? — and adjust your schedule accordingly. If you work better in the morning, then cut yourself some slack as the sun starts to dip,” advises Morgan.
During a retrograde period the planet in question slows down, a cue for us Earth dwellers to follow suit. Do what must be done but don’t push yourself to overachieve as no one can feel merry and bright while battling burnout.
2. Get used to saying “no”
“Many of us doubt our ability to deal with workplace conflicts. When something as simple as saying ‘no’ is a source of anxiety, it’s easy to overcommit, but spreading your time too thin will lead to missed deadlines or subpar results. Instead, divide your tasks into four categories based on urgency and importance, then focus only on the high-priority items that will help you achieve your main objectives. When your colleague approaches you with an additional project? If it doesn’t align with your core goals, don’t be afraid to say ‘no,’” Morgan stresses.
Communication can be compromised during Mercury’s retrograde period but that doesn’t mean boundaries shouldn’t be held or conversations should be avoided. Rather, care should be taken to stand your ground while speaking your needs and non-negotiables clearly, kindly and concisely. Avoid waffling, justification or intricate explanation.
3. Take tasks a step at a time
Morgan advises, “Set your main year-end goal and work backward from there, creating a roadmap of smaller milestones. Reverse engineering your objective can help to break it down into smaller steps, making it easier to stay on course and giving you some extra motivation every time you complete a step.”
Live and thrive through reverse engineering and a rich reward system. Celebrate the small steps and the minor miracles, like making it through the day without screaming, making time for meditation, honoring your commitments, holding your boundaries and being as kind as you can.
4. Decline those unnecessary meeting
Morgan imparts, “Studies show that 70% of meetings get in the way of productive work, so when you find yourself short of time or focus, simply block off a “no-meeting” day on your calendar. You will be surprised how much you can accomplish when you’re not constantly sitting on Zoom calls.”
5. Make progress reviews a weekly ritual
Morgan stresses, “Set time aside each week to review your goals, accomplishments, and the challenges ahead. If you find yourself behind schedule or feel your productivity has dropped, determine why and what you need to do to get back on track. Maybe you’ve lost motivation and need to tackle a problem from a new angle, or perhaps you need a breather in the afternoon to get over that post-lunch slump.”
Mercury retrograde is a fine time to reflect and revise your relationship to output. Remember to approach this review from a place of curiosity rather than judgment. As much as the mechanisms of capitalist oppression would have us believe we are the quotas we fill, we aren’t.
You are a mind and a beating heart that is constantly in flux, not a consistent machine. Be cognizant of your ebbs and flows but do not punish yourself for your human rhythms. Be sure to include goals that exist beyond workplace productivity; what did you learn? What did you say no to? How did you choose yourself?
6. Set aside “psychological detox” days
Morgan recommends spending one day a week phone-free to recharge your spiritual batteries and replenish your cognitive function. “Give yourself a day to forget about your workload and focus on creative hobbies. A good break can recharge the mind, enhancing your problem-solving abilities once you return to work. While you’re at it, log out of your socials. It might offer a dopamine boost, but research shows that endless scrolling is destroying our ability to concentrate.”
During the high stress of the holiday and the live wire energy of Mercury retrograde, digital detoxing and time spent pursuing analog pastimes like painting, journaling, walking outdoors, maintaining eye contact and playing board games are wonderful ways to give your brain a break.
7. Give yourself a break
Morgan cautions, “It’s tempting to hustle and tick off every goal, promising yourself a dream holiday once you’re done. The reality is, there will always be another task and you will burn out long before you clear your to-do list. Wracked by worry, future vacations will turn into two-week-long ‘scary Sundays’, spent dreading the workload awaiting you.”
The journey is the destination my babies and in the words of Mary Oliver, joy is not made to be a crumb. Build breaks, planned pleasure and long lunches into your work day rather than stockpiling leisure for a future date. We’re all going to die and Mercury retrograde, especially under the influence of Saturn/Cronos ruled Capricorn asks us to reflect on the concept and quality of time. Spend it like you stole it.
Astrologer Reda Wigle researches and irreverently reports back on planetary configurations and their effect on each zodiac sign. Her horoscopes integrate history, poetry, pop culture and personal experience. She is also an accomplished writer who has profiled a variety of artists and performers, as well as extensively chronicled her experiences while traveling. Among the many intriguing topics she has tackled are cemetery etiquette, her love for dive bars, Cuban Airbnbs, a “girls guide” to strip clubs and the “weirdest” foods available abroad.