Ah, summertime. Fun, sun, rest and relaxation. Though summer officially starts on June 21 and ends on September 22, most of our culture adapts to a “summer” schedule June through August. And, whether you have kids in school or not, we all see some change with the summer schedule. Some of it is welcome change, other aspects, not so much. Regardless, summer is here to stay and in addition to the very important task of getting some R&R, we can still make these months productive by taking advantage of the changes this season brings.
There is the practical: there is less traffic during traditional commute times. And, if you normally pass through a school zone, this perk is even greater. This is a benefit all commuters enjoy. But, if you do have school-age kiddos, you’re also most likely adjusting to a new set of schedule challenges, including summer camp hours, which are often shorter than the traditional school day. Additionally, many people take their longest vacations during the summer months. This means that you’ll have team members out of the office more during the workday and more members out of the office overall, compared to any other time during the year.
My advice here is to set your expectations accordingly. Anticipate it taking longer to get answers from clients, teammates and subordinates. Set up and rely on cross-trained team members. Acknowledge you may be taking on a little more responsibility to accommodate the perks this season brings.
Capitalize on the Slow Down
Summer, with its less-hectic cadence, is also a great time for cleaning and organizing. Never got to that “spring cleaning?” Ready to purge some toys, or organize a closet? Recruit the kids to help with these necessary, and usually very satisfying tasks, when applicable. If you’re like so many of us with children, you’re likely using some incremental brain power to keep the dreaded, “Mom, I’m bored,” at bay. Having a list of activities you as a family have brainstormed can serve as a resource. And, taking advantage of the many day camps in your area will provide short-term, varied, and often affordable solutions.
Find you have a little downtime at the office? Clean out a drawer. Clean up your electronic desktop. Scan some filed documents you can convert to electronic storage. Capitalizing on the slower pace, summer is also a good time to hold soft skills or technology training at the office. And, this is also a great time to have that company picnic, ice cream social or other motivational, team building activity you’ve been eyeing. Additionally, you might find you’re able to hold more strategic planning or one-on-one review sessions with your team members or clients during this slower period.
There is True Value in Taking a Break
But (always a but…), as a recent Time article suggests, don’t get caught up in scheduling every minute of the day; or, seeing that each moment generates output. There is value in idleness. Creativity and imagination are fostered in unstructured environments. Don’t just accept, but encourage this downtime.
Are you one of those who dreads taking vacation anticipating what you’ll return to? (A few years back I wrote an article on how to recover when returning to the office after vacation. You can find that article here.) Perhaps you believe the office or business won’t survive without you? They will. In fact, they’ll be better served with a rested, recharged you.
Prep Ahead of Your Summer Vacation
Do a couple of practical things before heading out on your own vacation. Plan to set up your electronic out-of-office message early in the day before leaving on holiday. And, take the time to proof it. I’ve seen too many typos in out-of-office auto replies that were hastily written by a weary worker ready for the beach. Go ahead and set your out-of-office two or three hours before you plan to stop working. This gives you time to get the necessary things wrapped up before you sign off.
Finally, don’t spend your vacation worrying about what is going on at the office. Worry steals from the present. Have faith in the systems you’ve set up to cover for you. Give others the chance to grow with new responsibility. Unplug and focus on what is really important. Spend time with the family. Relax in a hammock, on a beach towel, along a mountainside hiking trail or down the streets of a quiet village in a faraway country. We’ll be here when you get back with your photos, souvenirs and memories to share, refreshed and ready to go.
Sara Genrich is an Organization and Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Certified Consultant and the creator of the Organizing@Work for Success Workshop. She’s committed to providing real-life solutions so her clients have time to focus on the things that really matter.