It is no secret that summer is always long awaited. Plenty of us struggle to stay motivated at work during the warm summer months, while others struggle to slow down, get outside and absorb some much-needed Vitamin D.
The question this begs is, “Can we do both?”
Can we stay motivated, remain focussed and embrace new and necessary tasks when every morsel of our being is telling us to get reacquainted with our long lost-friend named summer?
Can we recognize that outside of our working environment a wonderful and blessed thing is happening? That in and among the daily grind and endless sea of responsibility, summer demands that we take some time to recover from the sometimes damaging impacts of seasons less kind.
I believe we can.
I believe we can both stay motivated AND enjoy some summer slowdown with a little “Conscious Scheduling.” (Special thanks to celebs Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin for the idea to put the word “conscious” in front of an action word to lend it some credibility… Google “Conscious Uncoupling”).
“Conscious Scheduling” means just that. Think about it. Whether you are the person who struggles to stay motivated or the person who struggles to slow down, being more thoughtful in how you plan and execute your days is the key to creating a balance throughout the summer.
For those who struggle to slow down, follow these tips:
- Move away from the habit of filling up every minute of every day, only to beat yourself up at the end of the day for not having finished your daily “to do” list. A list, more often than not, that was impossible to complete even before you started. In other words, avoid starting every day behind the eight ball.
- Remember, co-workers and bosses alike are on holidays, the office is quieter, and you are probably surrounded by folks who have not yet mastered the art of staying motivated. This unavoidable summer slowdown reality is going to allow any existing martyrs to shine, even as they also slow down a little. In addition, less eyes on you makes for the perfect opportunity to take some extra breaths without the same fear of judgment.
- Schedule a lunch hour! Don’t wait for a “break in the day” or to eat “when you have time”. Schedule an hour and eat outside, weather permitting. Don’t give yourself permission to skip it or view it as optional; behave like it is a mandatory meeting.
- If the idea of “holidays” freaks you out, capitalize on or create some long weekends throughout the summer. Even if there is no formal statutory holiday, add a Friday or Monday to one or two of your weekends. Relaxation does not have to come in 7- or 10-day increments. If possible, get crazy and take a last-minute day off when you see sunshine in the forecast (yes, even if it’s in the middle of the week).
- Acknowledge that others you may depend on for your deadlines are on holidays. You can try to work at the same pace as you do the rest of the year, but you will only increase your frustration while decreasing your productivity. Emails you send and messages you leave will often be met throughout the summer with out-of-office replies and voicemails indicating people are having the summertime fun that you are not. You can’t be mad at people for doing what you are not doing. Well, you can, but it’s a waste of time and energy. Instead, document the people who are out of the office and the corresponding dates, put all tasks related to them into your “TO DO LATER file.” DON’T back-fill the time you had allotted for that particular task or project.
If slowing down during the summer months just seems too impossible even to consider, remember this: the summer season is short. You can go back to hating winter and waiting for summer to come again soon enough. The “summer slowdown,” albeit important and essential to our overall health and well-being, is a temporary hurt.
For those who struggle to stay motivated, follow these tips:
- Don’t stop scheduling. As people go on holidays and the office slows down, a tendency increases to operate from a “play it by ear” kind of calendar. This is a surefire way to halt all productivity and then find yourself with a summer hangover come September, in which the headache makes it impossible to recover. During those summer weeks in which you are not officially on holidays, schedule in tasks regardless of how mundane. Re-file, tidy up, give the office a facelift, or get a jump start on fall planning. Don’t assume you will naturally do these things, schedule them in! Unscheduled time is motivation’s enemy. Unless you have scheduled off the whole summer, not every day is a holiday.
- Read inspirational work-related materials. Read a book that inspires creative thinking, builds on leadership skills or simply rejuvenates your love and interest in the work that you do. Summertime often offers this seasonal luxury, which likely also can lend itself to being a motivational gold mine.
- Don’t dress like a summer slob. Nobody can deny that often summer attire is more flexible and comfortable than other seasons. I am not suggesting we continue to wear cardigans and neck ties if we don’t have to. Just be careful not to let your professional attire slide too far down the scale into the personal attire vortex. I personally am more likely to put my feet up on my desk and close my eyes wearing flip-flops than I am when wearing heels (although I’ve done both). We all know that KEDS, capris, cargos and flip-flops do influence how we operate.
- Limit the time you are willing to “surf the Net”. Avoid scanning the real estate guide, researching summer vacation spots, watching the yard sale classifieds and continually checking the weather network in anticipation of the weekend. What you anticipate taking “just a minute” can easily translate into “just an hour.”
- Don’t let others’ lack of motivation influence you. One of the biggest challenges to staying motivated in the summer months is the power of group energy. Workplace expectations can often shift as holidays seem to supersede staff meetings and people in capris and flip-flops casually make their way into your space to discuss last night’s episode of Big Brother. Protect yourself against this powerful motivation sucker. Spend time with your door closed, be sure to look busy (I mean be busy!) and most importantly learn the skill of ending a social conversation and returning to work without wrecking a peer relationship.
If getting motivated during the summer months just seems too impossible to even consider, remember this: Summer is temporary. September will roll around soon enough, and you may be reminded by your full inbox and endless unanswered emails and voice messages that your inability to maintain momentum this summer is about to make your fall season extra painful.