The summer months can make even the most ambitious people feel lazy and ready for a break. In fact, scientists have found evidence that the hotter the weather, the harder it is to make decisions. For some people, this dip in productivity may be exacerbated by allergies acting up or kids who are home from school. For others, a stream of vacation photos popping up on social-media streams can inspire an urge to get out of the office and explore the great outdoors.
Whether you freelance or are employed, it’s possible to overcome a summer slump. What’s key is taking some time out to make conscious adjustments to your ordinary routine. This might mean scaling things down until September or ensuring you stay cool enough to push through and hit your financial targets. Whatever your priority, keep clear goals in mind. That way, the time you take off can stay guilt-free (and work-free), and days spent in the office won’t be wasted.
We’ve rounded up some of the smartest tips we can find to help you get the most out of this time of year, whatever that means for you.
Get deep thinking done while it’s quiet
For many professionals, July and August will be a time when clients, co-workers and bosses are away, and the pace of life will be slower than usual. If you are working through this time, don’t waste those extra hours scrolling on Instagram. Grab the opportunity to focus on big-picture strategizing, projects that require focused contemplation, and forward planning. These are the types of tasks that can often get neglected when the day-to-day routine is running at a breakneck pace. They are also crucial, not just to getting ahead and meeting your goals, but also to keeping motivated and energized. When the pressure cooker environment returns, you’ll be glad you took advantage of the lulls and be ready to shine.
Try the 9/80 schedule
There has been much talk recently about the benefits of the “9/80” schedule, especially during the summer, for those in traditional employment. This involves working an extra hour Monday through Thursday in exchange for being able to take every other Friday off. It means a chance to properly enjoy sunny weekends and return refreshed at the start of the week, without losing out on any working hours. If you’re working in an office and this type of arrangement hasn’t been discussed, perhaps it’s one you could suggest to your boss. After all, is anything productive really happening on summery Friday afternoons?
Make the most of mornings
If you’re self-employed, there’s even more scope to mix up your schedule in the summer. Consider getting up as early as you can stand it, blasting through as much work as possible before lunch, and then rewarding yourself with an afternoon doing something you love. You might find that you have more energy and creativity, thanks to the therapeutic effects of being away from your laptop. Productivity-boosting and de-stressing activities might involve physical exertion, soaking up some Vitamin D, spending quality time with loved ones or engaging with the natural world.
Ring-fence your down time
There’s nothing more important to productivity than ensuring you properly switch off and relax when you’re away from your desk. Yes, that means checking emails too. Getting drawn into the whirlwind of communication can occupy valuable brain space even if you’re just telling people you’ll get back to them later.
Communicate your vacation timings to everyone you work with well ahead of time and make sure they know you won’t be reachable. It’s not only going to make you more refreshed when you return, it’s also going to ensure you are present and engaged with those around you. Out Of Office is your friend: the world is going to keep turning without you for a week or so.
Take meetings outside
Is there a specific reason you need to be in a bland conference room on a beautiful day? If not, consider taking a walking meeting in a nearby park or relocating to an outdoor space with a picnic table. You might be surprised at the boost in mood and brain power it gives you to be out of your familiar surroundings. A Danish study showed, for example, that being around nature can enhance creative thinking, help incubate and prepare ideas, and can enhance your ability to concentrate.
Keep cool and stay healthy
Hydration and heat have an impact on cognitive functioning, as do comfort levels and the type of food we eat. To try to ensure you are performing at your best when the weather is at its hottest and most humid, try to optimize all the conditions you can control.
This might mean opening a window, keeping a close eye on the A/C settings or tweaking your office attire. Carrying a reusable water bottle is always a good idea: bonus points if it comes with a “freezer stick” to keep it icy cold all day. If you’re already feeling lethargic due to the heat, try not to exacerbate the effect with hot, heavy food that’s going to send you into a carb-induced coma. Fresh, crunchy salads can help you stay energized a lot better than mac and cheese.
Keep motivated with rewards
It’s easier to stay focused when we have a goal in mind that we’re moving towards. Whether you have a vacation planned this year or are saving up for a dream trip, kids’ summer camp or a motorhome, keep visualizing that reward and allow it to help you push through. You may even want to keep a photo relating to that reward pinned up by your desk, to remind you why you’re working so hard in the first place.
Make a clear list of priorities
Is it more important this summer to get a sense of work-life balance, to optimize your income and professional relationships, or to take a good chunk of time to be with family? Once you know that, it will inform subsequent decisions you’ll make and help you stay on track with whatever path you choose.
Want to learn more about how to improve your productivity? Skillshare’s got dozens of great classes to help you make the most of this season - and beyond.