August is here. Lots of the world is on holiday. And that means that the work world has a different, more relaxed feel. The world is coming at us with less volume and speed. The email inbox doesn’t fill so quickly. The calendar has more white space. The phone rings less often, and the instant messages don’t stack up with quite the same gusto as they did before the summer.
Because the “fire-hose of reality” has been turned down a bit, this is a great time of year to get clear, current, and creative about your work. You have more time to focus, more space for reflection. And, possibly, more opportunity to take that 2-hour lunch with your colleagues without feeling like you’re neglecting something that needs your attention back at the office.
Want to take advantage of the summer lull? Give these a try:
Get moving on those things you’ve been procrastinating about – The most common source of lack of forward progress on things is a lack of clarity about what’s next to be done. The Chinese proverb reminds us that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” What is the single step that is needed to get going on that thing you’ve been procrastinating about? Be as specific as you can when you define this next action. “I need to discuss this with the boss” – good. “I just need to figure this out” – not so good, as it doesn’t indicate a concrete next step. What exactly would you do to begin to figure it out? Once you’ve decided the next action on something, do it straight away if you can do it quickly. Otherwise, park it on a reminder list for later. Oh, which reminds me…
Clean up those reminder lists – you might want to have a look at the where you keep track of the actions you need to take. First, are there entries that are out of date? Anything that you’ve already completed and can tick off as done? If so, acknowledge that success by ticking them off as done (congrats!). Anything that’s no longer relevant and should be deleted? Make sure your lists are up to date and reflect your reality, and you’ll not only set yourself up to be hugely productive when the time is right, but you’ll also reduce internal distractions from those “open loops.”
Get your head really clear – you know those niggling thoughts you’ve been carrying around in your brain for a while? That long-term project that is due in the New Year that you haven’t started on? The planning for your partner’s big birthday next year? The fact that you’re running low on charcoal and the barbecue season is getting into full swing. Grab a stack of index cards and get all of those things off your mind. Depending on how much you’re carrying around in your head, that can take anywhere up to 45 minutes or so, but don’t let that put you off. Keep going until you have the sense, “OK, that’s all of it.” This will enhance your mental clarity and reduce the internal distraction you’ve been experiencing from those things.
Get the dead wood out of your reference filing – how does your reference filing system seem to you? A trusted location where you hold on to potentially valuable information that you can find quickly when you need your hands on it? Or a black hole where things disappear after you file them, never to be seen again? Whether we’re talking physical or digital reference, a good thorough clean can make a world of difference.
Review your upcoming calendar – having a look at your upcoming calendar is a great exercise to increase your perspective. What’s coming towards you as time goes by? Are you ready for it? Any prep to do for that meeting with the team after the boss is back from holiday in early September? How about that business trip coming up in October – any prep required for that? Any reservations to make for your Christmas holidays? Hey it’s never too early to ask…
Try out some new tools – how about the tools, both digital and not, that you use to keep yourself organized and stress-free? Want to try out that cool new app your colleague showed you? Take an hour or so and give it a try. With incoming volumes of “stuff” down, you’ll have more time to give new tools a spin, and to figure out how they integrate intro your overall toolset.
Raise your sights – take a step back from the crazy-busy-doing and look at the big picture. Stop focusing on the individual trees, and have a look at the forest. What would you like to have accomplished by the end of 2016? How about your really long-term goals? Being clear about your various planning horizons increases motivation, and the chances that they’ll become reality.
When the summer is over and the world gets back to normal pace, you’ll feel like you’re better prepared. Set yourself up right, and September might even feel as relaxed as August.