Many people aspire to reduce their summer workload so they can enjoy this relaxed season, but most wind up stuck in the crazy cycle of taking on the same, if not more work tasks. Whether you want to enjoy more time with family, or simply need a season to refresh your perspective, it’ so important to remain in control of your schedule so that you get the downtime you need.
I’m not claiming to have the perfect method in place and there are still days where I feel like I’m a slave to my to-do list, but I have learned some secrets to success along the way. Here are 7 tips that have helped me to better manage my workflow for a (somewhat) laid back summer:
- Scheduling days off well in advance.
I began planning our family’s summer schedule well in advance of the start of the season. As a mother to two young boys, I had to make sure I had their care lined up for things like daycare, day camps, vacation bible school and more. I also wanted additional time to spend with them beyond just the weekends. So I committed to being “off” on Fridays – or at least having them with me during the day and limiting my need to do any work. And so far it’s worked out great!
Planning for Fridays – as well as some other days mixed in there – to be “off” days well in advance allowed me to avoid any and all work tasks or meetings on those days. If it happens I can pop open my computer in the afternoon during their nap time, great. But most often I’m committed to staying offline and enjoying a 3-day weekend every weekend.
- Setting boundaries for my time.
Next I learned I needed to set boundaries for my time if I truly wanted this to be a laid back summer. What this means is that I selected three time slots each week in which I could meet with new clients, limiting these times to just 2 days a week for efficiency. It’s so easy for a schedule to get out of control when you allow people free reign of picking meeting times. By setting these boundaries I gained efficiency on my dedicated “meeting” days while preserving unblemished “work” days when I can really dial into work tasks.
- Limiting new, one-off projects.
Sure, summer can be a time to venture into new things, but I would prefer these things to be hobbies, travel, and time with family. Not simply more work. I’m grateful for every opportunity that comes my way, but in this current season I’m committed to limiting the new projects I take on – or at least spacing them out. Come fall, the kids will be back in school and I will have more than enough dedicated work time to ramp up new projects again, but in these sweet days of sun and blue skies, I want as much time as possible to get outside and soak it all in.
- Getting a head start on work days.
On days that are truly deemed as “work” days, I make it a routine to get up early. A 5am wake-up call isn’t as awful as it sounds with a summer sunrise to greet you. I enjoy the day’s first cup of coffee while I clean up my inbox and knock a quick project or two off my to-do list for the day. By the time the kids are up, I’m able to be fully engaged with them until they’re off to wherever it is they are going on that particular day. I’ve found that I set my work days up to as efficient and productive as possible when get a head start. The small sacrifice of an early alarm is well worth the reward of a 3.5 day work week.
- Letting things slide.
I’ve never ever been one to let things slide. It goes completely against my personality type. I like everything to feel taken care of in a timely manner. However, this summer I’ve learned that not only is it okay, but it’s downright necessary to let some work tasks slide a little further out than I might normally allow to happen. First, my clients appreciate but don’t need my scary-fast turnaround time for projects. Hey, they want a laid back summer too! Second, the difference between putting pressure on myself to deliver a work task today versus giving myself three additional days to get it done is a huge weight off my shoulders. Which brings me to this next point…
- Identifying points of diminishing returns.
There is a point of diminishing returns with anything, especially work tasks. I want to emphasize that work should always be done to the best of your ability, correctly and with passion. However, the tipping point is when you could complete the task now and everyone would be satisfied or you could pour more hours of your day into “perfecting” it and no one would really know the difference. Stop when you feel that putting more time into editing or improving upon a task will no longer provide a return on this investment of your time. People who are able to work to the point of diminishing returns, and step before exceeding it are so much more effective with their time, not only in the summer, but year-round.
- Learning to be okay with saying “not now.”
Finally and most importantly, I have had to learn to be okay with saying “not now” to opportunities I won’t want to take on during the summer season. Part of this is having confidence that while these opportunities may go away, there are always others that will be coming down the pipeline, so long as you continue to build your network and do good work.
In the early stages of building my public relations and strategic communications business, I needed to seek out every opportunity to grow. Now I can be more selective. I try my best to find an alternate solution for this potential client, like referring them to a partner of mine. Or I see if they’re willing to push their project timeline to fall, which often they are. Learning to be okay with turning down or deferring opportunities that come to you at the wrong time, will not only help you manage your summer workflow, but will help you keep your sanity each and every day throughout your career.
Have you been working toward a more relaxed summer work schedule? What steps have you taken to manage and even reduce your workload? Share your successes – or challenges by leaving a comment below.