For some of us, the thought of working from home this summer strikes fear at the very center of our hearts – this is especially true if you have young children at home!
I recall one summer, when I chose not to work from home during the summer months. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be as productive and that I could get more done by working from the office. I thought that I could “get ahead of the game” while everyone else was slowing down and heading off for vacation. Over the next few months I toiled away at the office on plans and projects and before I knew it, the summer was over. I was mentally and physically exhausted, unlike my colleagues who had taken advantage of the opportunity to rest and recharge while working from home. What a huge mistake!
With more and more of us working from home for a portion of our week than ever before, successfully navigating the summer months from home is not just a luxury – it’s a necessity.
The following are 11 habits to consider adopting this summer that can help you maximize productivity and create margin:
- Establish a set work schedule. Create a schedule just for the summer months. Identify the days you will and won’t work. Consider taking Fridays off – for most, they are typically the least busy day of the week during summer months. If you don’t think you can get away with taking the entire day off, consider checking out just on Friday afternoons. The extra time off will leave you refreshed and more focused when you are engaged in work.
- Establish start and stop times. I tend to get started earlier during the summer months because I wake up earlier. Generally, I’m more productive during this time because I want to get tasks completed that require focused concentration early. As an added benefit, I am able to finish up my workday a little earlier.
- Take breaks. I have reminders setup that ping me to get up and take a break for 10-15 minutes, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Go outside and move around for a bit before heading back in to work.
- Create a rhythm of engagement & withdraw. Schedule one day a week for all your meetings. By tackling all your face-to-face engagements in one day, you’ll find lots of margin available throughout the rest of the week. (This is a good practice to consider adopting throughout the year.)
- Have a defined place to work. Anytime you work from home, you should have a defined area that’s just for work (preferably not out in the open.) It’s best to have a place where you can shut the door to keep you free from distraction or so you can take calls. If that’s not an option, invest in a good set of noise-cancelling headphones.
- Set specific short-term goals. Outline specific goals you want to accomplish for the summer. The rhythm of summer often lends itself to creating content and other thought leadership activities, so determine what you want to accomplish and make a plan to achieve it.
- Communicate your schedule. Make sure you agree to your schedule with your spouse and children. If they are not on board with your plan, it will fail. Set the expectations of when you’ll be working and when you’ll be available. It should go without saying that you need to communicate and agree to any schedule changes with your team (employer and/or staff) as well.
- Build in time to play. Plan your vacations and time away in advance so you can stay focused and maximize your productivity while you are working. When you are “playing” do your best to unplug as much as possible. Set a goal of trying to completely withdraw for a minimum 3-4 days (a long weekend) once or twice during the summer months. Do more if you can.
- Have a “bug-out” plan. There are times when you simply can’t focus at home. Have a “bug-out” plan already established before you need it. Establish a few locations you can escape to when you need to get away. e.g.: Starbucks / local coffee shop, a park, co-working space, office of a client / partner (but be careful not to get sucked into their “stuff” if you visit their office.)
- Hire backup help if you need it. If you have kids at home, enlist the help (paid and un-paid) of sitters, older siblings, or relatives that can help you capture one or two hours of focused, productive time. Set them up on a regular schedule and you’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish during that time.
- Don’t feel guilty. Don’t feel guilty about working from home or about working while your kids are out playing and doing activities. One of the biggest challenges in working from home (any time of the year) is to stray from your work schedule because something fun comes up to do at home. Fight the temptation to play hooky if you don’t have the margin to do so. Instead, identify the activities you feel compelled to be a part of and schedule them for the next time they come up. You’ll be surprised at all that you can accomplish when you’re intentional with your time!
Working from home during the summer months can be some of the most enjoyable time of the entire year when you adopt habits that maximize your productivity and create margin for rest and relaxation.
Question: What habits have you adopted to help you be more productive during the summer months?