Is the summer sapping your productivity at work? Here’s how to turn it around

Hard to focus when you'd rather be at the beach? Here are some tips to help you stay productive this summer.
Hard to focus when you'd rather be at the beach? Here are some tips to help you stay productive this summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu

It can be hard to stay focused at work when summer vacations, long weekends and the sunny outdoors await you during the months of June into September.

You may be doing vacation planning at the office, blowing your budget on drinks on the patio or ditching nights at the gym for summertime barbecues. But there is a way to make sure you stay on task, experts say.

“The main thing that gets people is vacations – juggling vacations is the biggest risk factor that affects productivity in organizations,” Mark Ellwood, productivity consultant at Pace Productivity, said. There, he conducts studies on time management.

“Some people do find it challenging but the biggest trend is that there’s lowered expectations in the summer months. You appreciate that people are going to be away, and you have to manage your expectations realistically,” Dawn O’Connor, director of Think Productive Canada, told Global News.

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The company has locations in the U.K., Australia, Western Europe and Canada, where experts focus on personal productivity training.

Ellwood and O’Connor share their tips on how to stay productive and maintain your professional, personal and financial goals during the busy summer months:

Make a to-do list

You have a project due at work, your son is starting summer camp and you need to drop the dog off at your sister’s before you take your family vacation.

You’re multitasking with multiple priorities on the go. Now’s the time to stay organized with a thorough list of what you need to get done along with firm deadlines.

“Your to-do list deals with the past, present and the future. You’re looking at what you can do right now, what you’re going to do today and, at the end of the day, you can check off what you did and have a sense of accomplishment,” Ellwood said.

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Your to-do list needs to be specific, though. Instead of writing “research vacation accommodations,” set a goal for coming up with three viable options, Ellwood said.

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Schedule time for all of your goals

You want to take your daughter on a hike, finish a report at work and plan out a detailed itinerary for your trip to Italy.

With so many things on the go, you could be making calls to a travel agent during work hours, then staying late at the office, missing out on quality time with your kids.

“Start your day with a blank slate as if you had nothing to do,” Ellwood said. Then fill it in with meetings and other obligations. You need to carve out time for vacation planning so you aren’t cramming it in during your lunch hour, for example.

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If you set vacation planning for after dinner on your calendar, you’ll know you’ve set aside adequate time to focus on that task instead of letting it interrupt your work day, Ellwood said.

Don’t let distractions eat up your time

When it’s sunny outside and you’re hoping to get outdoors for an al fresco lunch, your work day can feel like it’s dragging on. Stay focused on your job by following the Pomodoro Time Management Technique, O’Connor advises.

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You set a timer for about 25 minutes and work solely on the task at hand without any interruptions. When the 25 minutes are up, you’re free to check emails, grab a coffee or take a walk for five minutes before restarting the process again.

Create healthy morning and evening rituals

If you find you’re stressed or scatterbrained with commitments of the day piling up when you wake up, you need to change your habits.

O’Connor suggests that every night this summer, write out your list of things to do the next day on a Post-it note. It’ll ease your mind before bedtime, knowing you’ve already put your thoughts on paper.

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“People who make this a ritual, they see their productivity skyrocket. Their stress levels are lower,” O’Connor said.

In the morning, if you’re waking up to a screen in your face as you skim through emails and daily headlines on your phone, this could derail you from starting your day, too.

“There’s no mindfulness or thoughtfulness. It’s starting your day with an immediate work focus and that’s not necessarily healthy,” she warned.

Instead, make time to stretch, prepare breakfast with a morning coffee and then hit the ground running. Don’t go to bed staring at your phone either.

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Make sacrifices

If you’re worried about juggling too many priorities, you have to say no to some things or make tweaks whenever you can.

You could say yes to meeting friends for dinner and drinks, but opt for an appetizer instead of a full course, Ellwood said.

If you’re committing to an out-of-town wedding, you might have to decline an offer for a camping trip later on this summer.

“Saying no can be the most powerful thing for yourself,” Ellwood said.

Rely on apps

Using your phone to track your spending, eating habits or how often you’re working out is a great way to stay accountable, O’Connor says.

Canadians tend to splurge during the summertime — on average, we shell out about $1,346 on travel, eating out and entertainment, according to a BMO poll.

The poll warns that 67 per cent of Canadians end up making unplanned and impulsive financial decisions during the summer season.

Use a budget tracking app, such as Mint, if you’re worried about overspending. When it comes to fitness, apps that track your running or how often you go to the gym can help you see how often you’re skipping out on exercise while MyFitnessPal can track both eating and workout habits.

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O’Connor relies on WhatsApp to stay accountable in the summer. In a chat group with her friends, they remind themselves to make time to work out.

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