Plan to avoid summer distractions at work

Mary Cornforth Cawood
Mary Cornforth Cawood

Does your office seem like a ghost town, your voice echoing as it bounces off empty walls? It must be summer. For many of us, summer means vacations and new adventures. We’re eager to leave work and take advantage of more daylight hours. Making time to enjoy summer is an important part of staying healthy. It gives us time to reset physically and mentally. Staying active keeps us healthy and reduces those sick days.

All this fun can make it difficult to stay productive, however. It can be hard to remain focused when all you want to think about is relaxing on a beach. It also can feel frustrating to try to schedule meetings when everyone else seems to be out of the office. It’s possible, though, to make the most of the summer while staying on track.  Keep these tips in mind and maximize your productivity during the dog days of summer:

Dress for success. The weather has definitely heated up in the Grand Valley, where 100-degree temperatures make it tempting to throw on a pair of shorts or flip flops before heading to work. Fight the urge and dress according to the normal standards for your business. Even if you’re working from home, dress for work. This is a simple trigger for your brain that helps you stay focused.

Don’t skip breakfast. Hot weather dulls our appetites. Many mornings, I would prefer sleep over breakfast. This isn’t a good plan because it’s hard to stay focused when your stomach is growling at 10 a.m. If you’re like me and struggle to squeeze breakfast into your morning routine, plan accordingly. Make some overnight oats, cut up some fruit, mix up an omelet in a mug or freeze fruit to make a smoothie the next morning. You’re more likely to eat breakfast if it’s of the grab-and-go variety.

Review your goals. The year is more than half way over, making it a good time to review those goals you set in January. Seeing what you’ve accomplished and what still needs to be done could offer just the motivation you need to get back on track.

Compile a to-do list. I’m a big fan of lists. The whiteboard in my office sits in plain sight of my desk and lists all my deadlines for the month. It’s easy to glance up and see what’s next. At the end of the day, I make a list of what needs to be done the next day so it’s waiting for me in the morning. Not only does this keep me on track, but I also feel a sense of accomplishment when I draw a line through a completed task.

Find some easy wins. I always make sure my lists include some important, but relatively simple, tasks. If everything on your list is daunting, you’re far less likely to muster the motivation to get started. Give yourself some easy wins you can check off between those bigger projects so you can finish every day with a sense of accomplishment.

Minimize distractions. Workplaces are full of distractions. Talking co-workers, smells from the break room, smartphones and a messy workspace make it difficult to concentrate. Do what you can to minimize distractions. Clear your space of clutter so you can focus on the current task, not the stacks around you. Close your door or put on headphones to quiet the noise. Close unneeded applications on your computer so you aren’t tempted to surf the web. Smartphones might be a lifesaver, but they’re also a time waster. Turn your phone over so you can’t see notifications. That way, you won’t be tempted to look at your social media feeds. You can still hear incoming calls, but won’t be distracted by other alerts.

Take a break. Every couple of hours it’s a good idea to take a brain break. Get up and move around, stretch or close your eyes for a few minutes of meditation. It’s tempting to push through the day so you can get to those summer activities, but you’ll discover you’re actually less productive if you don’t take a few minutes to reset.  If you’re still hung up on a task, switch to another one.  Switching things up is often the trick for a tired brain.

Make time for exercise. It’s hot. Life is busy. Juggling work and personal life can seem even more hectic in the summer. It’s ironic, because most of us remain programmed from childhood to think it’s summer break. Find a way to squeeze in some exercise. What is your best time of day? Before work, mid-day or after work? Or are two shorter periods of exercise a better plan? Whatever it is, take time for 30 minutes of physical activity. It’s good for the mind and body.

Reward yourself. You’ve eaten breakfast, made it through your to-do lists, achieved a goal and somehow managed to exercise. Reward yourself. Even if you managed only one of those things, reward yourself. What have you been looking forward to doing this summer? Think of things that can be done in short amount of time — like lunch with a friend or attending an evening concert — as well as such bigger things as weekend getaways. Mixing in little rewards with smaller tasks keeps you motivated to achieve your bigger goals that earn you that getaway or vacation you’ve been looking forward to all summer.

Don’t let summer sink your productivity. A little planning can make it easier to stay focused so you can maximize your work day and still enjoy all the season has to offer.