How to Safeguard Your Productivity Against the Summer Slump
The days are getting longer. The weather’s getting more inviting. You don’t wake up to cold nights anymore – instead, the sun is already up.
That’s right: summer is coming.
The “summer slump” is a well-known phenomenon in many markets, where the changing of the season means slower sales. But what about your productivity as a remote worker, a team manager, or as a businessperson at large? Here are our tips for preventing the summer slump:
Prepare For a Challenging Quarter
One of the reasons so many otherwise productive workers succumb to the summer slump is that they don’t prepare for it in the slightest. When bright and sunny days roll around, they spend time daydreaming rather than focusing on work.
As the old axiom goes: failing to plan is planning to fail. If you don’t interrupt your own pattern, you can expect that summer will take over instead.
The solution is to plan for a challenging quarter. Create an editorial calendar ahead of time. Give a boost to your sales quotas. By all means, plan your vacation. But also plan for your vacation, making up extra time in the days you are at work.
Make Work More Comfortable
If you’re prone to staring at the window and wondering what it might be like to work outdoors, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re a summer slump stereotype.
But it’s not really your fault, either. If your office is far less comfortable than the great outdoors, all of that daydreaming is inevitable. To combat the forces of nature, make your workspace more pleasant:
- Find a comfortable temperature indoors. If you have control over the thermostat, exercise it. May and June are prime months for adjusting the temperature.
- Make your office more attractive. Bring in a plant that can make use of the windowsill sunlight. Post up your motivating goals for the quarter. An “attractive” work space is different for everyone. But whatever you can do to make your office space a more pleasant space to be — make it happen.
- Don’t limit yourself. By all means, enjoy an outdoor lunch break. Go to an outdoor concert during the week. Limiting yourself to the office means the distracting weather outdoors will have an even stronger pull on you.
Supplement Your Team with Temporary Workers and Freelancers
If you figure that there’s nothing you can do to avoid the inevitable dip in summertime productivity, you can always supplement your team by making temporary hires or contracting freelancers.
The key to the summertime slump is knowing how to manage your time. But in that most ancient of business equations, time = money, you’ll remember that it can be just as powerful to invest your financial resources in having someone else take care of a portion of the work.
Use sites like Upwork to identify top freelancers. Write out a job description and make the scope very clear. On those online platforms, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to review previous experience so you can be sure you’re hiring someone with a good work ethic to supplement your summertime team.
Adding freelancers for a season is one option. Another is crowdsourcing parts of your projects when you run out of human power. This will help keep projects on track no matter what the temperature is outside.
Take Advantage of Longer Days
One of the best aspects of summertime is the abundance of daylight. In some cases, you may even wake up and go to bed under the sun.
You might think this is distracting, but it’s actually an advantage: more daylight in the morning means more time to get yourself prepared for work. You might even consider moving personal time like your evening exercise to the morning, just to clear your slate for the day ahead.
A study in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that those workers with gym access reported more productivity on days they go to the gym. This isn’t a coincidence. Summer daylight hours might be distracting, but they’re also a great way to squeeze more time out of your day.
Start Strong and Build Momentum
One of the reasons the summer slump is so powerful is that it can be a self-reinforcing myth. If you don’t have a productive day, you reason that it’s the weather that’s doing it to you. Then tomorrow, when the weather is very much the same, you use that rationalization as an excuse to keep up the slow pace.
It’s a vicious cycle. Better to avoid it altogether by starting the summer as strongly as you can. If that means setting goals that might be on the ambitious side, so be it — you can always adjust these quarterly goals in July and August.
What you don’t want to do is suffer from a case of low expectations. If you can help it, set a strong pace and get used to it.
Enjoy Your Vacation
Summertime is a prime vacation target for obvious reasons. And while the overlapping of vacations with your remote team can make for some tricky online conferences, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your own vacation to keep the projects moving.
Instead, work hard to earn that vacation:
- Plan ahead. Take the days of your vacation out of the work schedule entirely, and ask yourself what needs to be done at least a week ahead of your vacation in order for you to leave with no distractions.
- Enjoy yourself fully. Let people know you’ll be out of the office, and even out of reach completely, so you’re free to spend time with family and friends and get the most out of your vacation. The vacation is there to help you recharge your batteries, after all — a “working vacation” defeats its own purpose.
- Don’t get in a slump. Just because you’re free to enjoy your vacation doesn’t necessarily mean you should drop all of your good habits along the way. Keep up on some light exercise. Keep planning fun events. You aren’t exactly living your vacation to its fullest if you spend all of your time on the couch.
Minimize Workplace Distractions Whenever Possible
When an efficiency expert said that workplace distractions could rob you of some 6 hours per day of productive work, the idea rang true for many workers across the globe.
One minute you’re in the zone, completely engulfed in your work. Then you check your email and find yourself solving someone else’s problem.
Not only do you lose that time, but you lose the time you would have otherwise spent “in the zone.”
That’s why it’s so important to minimize workplace distractions when you can. Put on some noise-cancelling headphones if you’re surrounded by busy workers at the office. Find some time early in the morning to write before the household wakes up.
If you don’t work to fight distractions, the distractions will take over. Don’t let them.
Plan Batches of “Productive Time”
What should you do with all of that distraction-free time? Simple: work in big batches on your most important projects.
Start the day by writing down the most important items for you to finish. Start with number one — the action item on your list that you would tackle if you could do nothing else that day.
Then, go to a preplanned distraction-free environment — even if it’s just to put on headphones and escape from the world — and keep on working until you either finish or you need a break.
It sounds simple. But how many of us actually tackle work this way? Too often, we let life’s little distractions get in the way. Sometimes we do it to ourselves — checking email when we don’t need to, taking a “snack break” we don’t need, etc.
You’d be surprised how simply working in batches can boost your productivity, even if you don’t make a conscious effort to be more productive for the remainder of the day. When you take back the opportunity costs associated with distractions, work becomes a lot less stressful.
Get Important Stuff Out of the Way in a Hurry
Finally, you can avoid the summertime slump if you take a proactive approach of checking the most vital items off your quarterly list. Here’s how:
- Identify what’s important first. If you have to run a mile, the best thing you can do is get the hill out of the way as fast as possible. Don’t put it off until the last minute, before a coworker goes on vacation.
- Don’t lie to yourself about what’s important. You know which hurdles are hardest to jump. Don’t procrastinate and leave yourself with more pressure just before a vacation. Instead, tackle it now — when it will make the biggest difference.
- Start now so you can figure out if you need more time. Ever have a project so large that you couldn’t even manage the will to start it? It’s more common than you think. Start even just a small piece of this project early in the summer so you know more about what it will take to manage it.
Put together, there’s no reason these tips can’t leave you out of the summertime slump and give your productivity the kick in the rear end it needs.