With summer in full swing and many of us still working from home, staying in our seats from 9-to-5 is getting increasingly difficult. Distractions come in all shapes and sizes this season. Whether it’s long-awaited happy hours on the patio or weekend trips to the beach, one thing is for sure: work can be the last thing on our minds.
To add to that, many of us are increasingly at risk of burnout as our responsibilities and workloads have grown over the last year. The pressure to get the work done combined with a yearning for a slower pace and a reprieve in the sun can make it difficult to stay motivated. And the last thing we need is to add guilt to the mix as the work piles up unnecessarily.
So, how can you have the best of both worlds? How can you enjoy the lazy days of summer without letting work fall behind?
1. Take Your Vacation
It may sound obvious but it is time to book your vacation. What are you waiting for?
Too often we want to save our vacation days for the perfect opportunity but if we’ve learned anything over the last year, there’s no time like the present. Carpe diem. And while you’re at it, throw out the mindset that hard work equals no breaks. We should all be prioritizing time for ourselves and bragging about how much sleep we’ve had instead of the hours we overworked. Saving your vacation days is not a badge of honor.
Tip: When you’re on vacation, be on vacation. Shut down the laptop, disconnect from technology, and enjoy some well-earned time for self-care. Believe me, email and social media will still be there when you return.
2. Schedule Non-Negotiable Breaks
It can be easy to power through your work without coming up for air, only to realize the day has passed by. This time of year, you can start to resent the work as it keeps you from missing the blissfully beautiful sunny days.
Avoid the rut by taking a good look at your calendar and scheduling non-negotiable breaks. Make a commitment to yourself that you will honor that time in your calendar like any other meeting: no cancelations or double-booking allowed. Need help? Lean on the support of an accountability buddy. Check-in at the beginning and the end of your break to share how you used the time.
Still sound tough? Find a way to make it fun! Two of my best favorite things in the summer are to move my body and connect with nature. They are sure ways to let go of self-judgment and connect with your childlike self, so why not put recess back in your daily schedule and find a way to play during your break. Something to look forward to. Something that brings you joy.
3. Adjust Your Schedule
The best part about summer is time is on your side. The days are longer making it easier to get up early in the morning and get the day started.
Waking up early gives you options. Either take the time to get ahead at work, enjoy getting in nature, have a coffee with the sunrise, or maybe meet a friend for brunch if that’s available to you. Regardless of what you choose, you’ll feel better having created more space in your day to enjoy the season.
You can also try to front-load your week to make Fridays more manageable as you ease into the weekend. Many organizations are also following no-meeting-Friday policies to help combat stress at work; something we should all be taking advantage of.
Plan your next meeting on foot and plan to take a walk. This is a perfect alternative to sitting at your desk for internal meetings or one-on-one check-ins with your manager. You’ll feel better for having stepped away from the screen and enjoyed some fresh air—not to mention the vitamin D boost!
4. Try Something New
It can be easy to fall into the trap of repetitive work. It’s comfortable, it builds confidence, but it can also create complacency. Look for an opportunity to take on a new responsibility or be involved in a new project to spark fresh energy into your work. Or perhaps there’s an affiliate nonprofit or charity associated with your organization where you could volunteer your work hours.
If you aren’t sure where to start, think about your values and what lights you up. For example, I’m passionate about equality in the workplace and after spending over a decade in the male-dominated technology industry, I get excited at the prospect of gathering like-minded women together to discuss diversity, equality, and inclusion. Up next: schedule a roundtable of female leaders across the organization to speak to our company’s initiatives with our customers.
5. Stay Connected
It’s easy to feel isolated in our feelings towards work and challenges staying motivated, but chances are you are not alone. Make sure to check in with your most trusted teammates on the regular to stay connected at work. But beware of the contagious nature of negative energy. Keep it positive when swapping notes and if a coworker leaves you feeling down, it could be time to find a new confidante. It can also help to attend social events when they align with your values as they nurture a sense of belonging.
There is no doubt that the summer offers many temptations to divert our attention from work. But don’t forget at the end of the day to give yourself grace, because nothing should come at the cost of our mental and physical wellbeing.
About the author: Kirsten Schmidtke is a woman in tech, a fashion entrepreneur, and a community builder who teaches women how to thrive in work and life while staying true to themselves. A true multi-passionate professional, she is currently an account executive at Amazon Web Services, the co-owner of mother-daughter fashion brand Klas Squared, and the woman behind The Creative Connection Network, a community where multi-passionate professionals thrive.