NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — When the weather gets cold and dreary and it's already dark by the time you leave your office, it can be difficult to stay motivated. Although you may feel like going into hibernation between December and February, there's still work to be done and slacking can cost you. No matter how much you'd rather pull the covers over your head, winter can actually be one of the most productive times of the year — if you follow these three simple rules:

1. Make lists and create attainable goals.

The cold weather may make you lethargic and unmotivated at work, but making a list of tasks to accomplish each day or each week can help you stay connected to your work, says Piera Palazzolo, senior vice president of marketing for Dale Carnegie Training .

"Setting small goals can also help you get things done while maintaining your productivity and momentum to keep you invested in projects at hand," Palazzolo says.

Starting small is key, says Morag Barrett, CEO of SkyeTeam, an international HR and leadership development firm.

"Think baby steps, not giant leaps," Barrett says. "Too often I see people create a laundry list of things to be done to achieve their goal and get overwhelmed. I have also seen people who think they should be able to 'leap buildings in a single bound' and create action steps that are simply too big for the average human to manage, and again get disillusioned."

Barrett advises employees in the winter doldrums to identify one item that can be done immediately — today — that can move you closer to a goal, whatever that goal may be.

"Do it, feel the sense of satisfaction in achieving this step, and keep doing it," she says. "Over time you will pick up momentum and successfully reach your goal."

Keep in mind that your goals don't always have to be career-related to keep you motivated at work — even having a goal of losing the extra pounds you put on over the holidays can help inspire you to wake up earlier and get more out of your day, Barrett explains.

2. Be social.

Making friends at work can improve your engagement and overall presence at the office, Palazzolo says, and planning an afterwork activity with your team is a great place to start. According to a recent Dale Carnegie study, 54% of employees are engaged when they believe their manager cares about their personal life.

"This interaction and connection at work can motivate you to be more productive," Palazzolo says.

If you feel like you never have time in your schedule to be social, it's OK to make that one of your goals for the season, says Amanda Augustine, job search expert for TheLadders.