Only a few folks would dislike the summer months. Who could ever hate bright, warm afternoons, buzzing bees, and the smell of grass on fresh earth? Or who would loathe the cool splashes of water, sometimes accompanied by the echoes of children’s laughter? Indeed, it’s one of the most beloved of all seasons. But alas, summer can also be the most unproductive time for us workers. Many wonder how to stay focused in the office during the summer months.
According to several studies, our brains are wired to focus on leisure when the weather is nice, compared to less pleasant conditions. Thus, it makes us lazy, sluggish, and inefficient. The torture becomes more evident once the weekend nears, as employees either haphazardly go about their tasks, or ignore them altogether. But is there a way to beat the dreaded summer slump?
Don’t let idleness seep in just because you want to go swimming.
Fight off inefficiency and learn how to stay focused in the depths of summer in 6 steps:
1. Take advantage of an empty office by planning ahead.
“One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by.” ― Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle
What better time to reflect on your career goals than on a lazy summer day, in an almost-empty, quiet office? Just because you have less work than usual doesn’t mean you should slack off. Remember, each minute counts. So make the most of your situation by jotting down what you want to achieve in three or five years.how to stay focused
- Managers: what company goals do you want to realize before the year is over?
- Entrepreneurs: what problems does your company have that you need to resolve right away?
- Freelancers: are your earnings enough to meet your current lifestyle? What can you do about it?
- You: are you currently excelling in your chosen career? Why or why not?
So grab a cool drink and start putting your goals on paper. Come colder months, you can look back and see what you have accomplished during those lazy afternoons.
2. Be proactive and volunteer for tasks you’re interested in.
It can be tempting to just think of exotic beaches, family picnics, or that romantic getaway while you’re counting down the hours at work. But ask yourself: wouldn’t it be better to get those treats as a reward for a job well done?
Don’t let your teammates down. Be proactive and volunteer for group projects or that company event to fight off the sneaky summer slump. Show them you know how to stay focused. There’s nothing like staying active to fend off lazy thoughts. Besides, by the time you’ve accomplished those important tasks, that day at the beach would feel even sweeter.
3. Opt for flexible schedules and try working at different places.
Okay: so you’ve tried to jot down your long-term goals, and even offered to lead the next sales presentation. But no matter how hard you try, you just can’t shake off the summer slump. Work starts to feel cumbersome. Days get longer and you feel like you accomplished null by the time you go home.
If warm, pleasant days seem to be getting the best of you, ask your management for flexible working conditions. This should help you make the most of the summer months. A flexible schedule gives you plenty of room to relax – as long as you finish the tasks assigned to you.
Try the ‘workstation popcorn’ method by athlete, businessman, and speaker Joel Runyon. It consists of working in at least three different environments (i.e. café, park, public library, etc.), dividing your tasks in different groups so you get to tackle each with better focus. The benefits include more activity (as you hop from one place to another) and discipline (because you need to complete each round of duties before moving on to the next).
You’ll feel less lethargic as you’re on the move throughout the day. By the time you go home, you would’ve accomplished more AND have enough time to lounge on the porch.
4. Use Parkinson’s Law and cut your time in half for each task.
Developed by British historian and author Cyril Northcote Parkinson, this law states that ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’. This means that the more you extend the deadline of your task, the more complicated and taxing it gets. This also explains why people hit their targets better when they’re running against the clock.
Take advantage of this principle by cutting the time you allot for your tasks in half. If it normally takes you an hour to clean out your inbox for example, make it thirty minutes. This allows you to concentrate on just ONE job at a time. Thus, you put all your effort into it. The result is that you finish what you need to do without the need for overtime. You experience less stress at work and more time to truly enjoy summer.
5. Schedule meetings and/or experiments during this time.
Most of your clients might be on vacation. Or perhaps half the office went abroad. No matter the reason, you and the rest of the team are stuck in the office, simply waiting for the clock to strike five. Looking out the window to rest your eyes isn’t helping, because there are tons of people playing ball, eating ice cream, or just lounging about the park. What do you when you’re envious of how everybody else is spending their summer?
Use this time to perform meetings or experiments. Do you remember that research paper on customer behavior that got relegated to the back burner? Or maybe your team is in dire need of a refresher course on data analytics but management forgot to give one. The question of how to stay focused is most easily resolved by doing new tasks. Now would be the best time to do all that. Instead of sweating the hours away, gather the group in an air-conditioned conference room to brainstorm ideas. how to stay focused
6. Keep cool and hydrated throughout.
You might want to think twice before lowering the temperature on the thermostat. Believe it or not, the ‘right’ temperature can determine productivity. In one study, Cornell University researchers found that chilly temperatures (about 20 degrees Celsius and below) influenced workers to commit more mistakes, as opposed to when they felt comfortably warm (about 25 degrees Celsius). Keep your office temperature between 24 to 25 degrees Celsius to avoid compromising on efficiency.
Another thing to fend off summer slumps is to stay hydrated. As our brains are 80 percent water, being careful about what we drink is as important as what we eat. Several studies support the claim that if we get dehydrated, our mental and energy levels suffer. So drink up! While water is the best form of hydration, other liquids such as tea or coffee work just as well. You can also satiate your thirst from food.
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Staying productive is imperative no matter what industry you belong in: be it healthcare, retail, education, or commerce. Just because warm days beckon doesn’t mean you should be working less. Instead of focusing on what you’re missing out on, think about the contributions you’re going to give to your team and your company.
When all the hard work is done, reward yourself with a well-deserved vacation by the beach. Finally: the sun, sea, and skies. Now that’s a slump you won’t mind sinking into.