Ah, summer. Open-toe sandals, pickup basketball, beachy vacations, and kids out of school. While summer is one of the most enchanting times of year, it can be hard to stay focused in the face of all the other things you could be doing. Everyone handles the siren call of summer differently, and there’s no wrong answer.
In what may come as a surprise, the season has the potential to be deeply productive in your life and career, while adding value to the lives around you. Rather than writing off the summer months as a productivity slump, why not use this dreamy time to dive even deeper into your plans and goals, getting things done that you’ve been putting off through the dreary winter months?
Enroll In MIT
Our natural tendency to procrastinate can end with nothing getting accomplished, given how summer days tend to trickle away from us. To combat this, knock out the important stuff in the morning—exercise, deep-dive tasks, and high-level projects.
Now is also a great time to experiment with focus on your MIT—Most Important Task—each day and seeing how it affects your life and creativity. As James Clear puts it: “Give yourself a time and space to work on what is important to you each day.”
The summertime often changes up daily routine, so it could be the perfect time to clear away busybody habits and redefine a time each day to get that one most important thing accomplished.
This also means keeping your willpower focused on your MIT. This productivity strategy is all about keeping your effort at a slow and steady pace, rather than pushing wildly to get everything done before you can get out and enjoy the sunshine.
Willpower is a finite resource that only gives as much as it gets. The best parts of summer, like fresh fruits and vegetables, outdoor exercise, and sleep-rich time off can build up your ability to power through.
The routine-resisting attitude of “school’s out for summer,” however, can push against your will to be productive, so concentrating on one thing at a time, one scheduled session per day, can be the key to an even-keeled schedule that lets you truly enjoy your time off because your to-do list is also satisfied.
Face Your Opportunity Cost
In his fantastic article, No, You Can’t Have It All, Mark Manson writes about opportunity cost—but not, as we often compartmentalize it, in connection with economics and workplace accounting.
Instead, he points out that in a modern society filled with opportunities to miss, we are often filled with a creeping terror of missing out on something—which can either cause us to take too many things on or simply freeze up. Time to face the truth: we actually will miss out on many opportunities when we choose one—that’s how life works.
As you examine your summer and make choices of when to hang out with your buddies or catch up on email, keep your opportunity cost in mind. When you’re working, you’re not accumulating new summertime experiences.
The simple truth surrounding many freelancers, entrepreneurs, and workplace achievers is that burnout is always around the corner. Consider actually making some dedicated time to enjoy the season with your family and friends to avoid a true productivity slump brought on by burnout.
Nix The New Year’s Resolutions
We all do it: wake up January 1st bursting with New Year’s Resolutions. And we all know what happens to those resolutions (hint: around 8% actually succeed). If you are driven by resolutions and goals, consider setting them in the summer. By this time, you’re well established in the year, and you have enough information to make your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound)—or to skip the SMART and shoot for the moon.
Try New Things
Summer is also a fantastic time to take on new opportunities, start saying yes, and even try out different productivity systems. Have you always wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago? Or learn an instrument? Or try a new career? Whether you start planning now for years down the road or just leap, energizingly-long summer days can be just the right time to let yourself expand and fill out your shoes.
Venturing into something new is a way to strengthen your brain’s neuroplasticity. Stubborn as you may be, your brain is not actually stuck in its ways. Your brain forms new connections through attempting different processes. It’s a way to give your brain a “workout,” thus strengthening its muscles.
So go ahead, take that underwater basket weaving class you’ve been meaning to do for years. It’s good for your brain.
During summertime, the consequences of wasting time seem more present—with the sun shining every moment seems to count. Use that critical sense to drive decision-making. Ask yourself: How much does this actually mean to me?
Back to Mark Manson, who recommends you ask yourself a few tough questions, like: What are the 20% of your possessions you get the most value out of?
- What do you spend 20% of your time doing that gives you 80% of your happiness?
- Who are the 20% of people you’re close to who make you the happiest?
- What are the 20% of the clothes you wear 80% of the time?
- What’s the 20% of food you eat 80% of the time?
Don’t be afraid to turn down some projects. Consider outsourcing your email (turns out, the world won’t fall apart if you don’t hit inbox zero with your own busy fingers), or setting up a creative auto reply that will actually add some value to the emailer. Think about your ‘deloading’ blocks. Heck, use your Trello board to plan the best summer vacation ever!
Ripe with opportunities for time wasting, new experiences, and new focus, summer isn't a productivity slump—it's calling your name. Go enjoy it!