Standing out this summer

Standing out this summer:
Professional tips for maximizing productivity

By: Mike McDonough

Summer can be a slow time for businesses. With conferences taking people to all corners of the country and many people away on family vacations, it can seem like the warmer months might be a chilly time for your career advancement. But with the absence of key players and team members, this could be the optimal time to stand out in your position or take over more responsibility. Here are a few professional tips to make sure you’re ready for the heat when summer opportunities arise.

Stay Productive
It can be easy to get distracted when the weather warms up. Thoughts of budgets and boardrooms can easily turn into beaches and BBQs. But a slow-down in projects can mean a lot more time to cross things off the to-do list. Here are a few examples:
 Reorganize your office or desk to make sure it’s clean and efficient. Manage files, de-clutter, clean out the inbox and get your space how you want it so you can finish the second half strong.
 Read important industry books and resources to make sure you’re up to date on the latest practices and tactics. This can put you at a distinct advantage when your colleagues are kicking back or coasting.
 Schedule big events in Q3 or Q4. Budget meetings and reviews may seem like a long way off, but once vacation calendars clear up, they’ll fill up fast with other meetings.
 Reassess your goals. By now you’re midway into Q2 or later and it’s time to take a look at which goals are coming along and which ones might need to be rethought. This is the time to recalibrate, not when you’re up against a deadline that quickly approaching.

Sharpen Management Skills
Even if you’re already in the executive boardroom, you can always take some down time to hone your management skills to make sure you’re providing effective and valuable guidance to your team. Here are a few tips to maximize the summer months:
 Study leadership styles. Between TED Talks, Webinars and good old-fashioned leadership books, there’s more information out there about successful management than ever before. Take some time to look at methods in and out of your industry to see how you can take your leadership farther.
 Take a look at the big picture. Sometimes you can be so bogged down in day-to-day projects that it can be hard to take a step back and look at the broader scope of your company or department’s goals. Take the opportunity to survey your surroundings before projects get back in full swing.
 Catch up on technology. With everything moving so fast, it can be hard to know what’s at your disposal unless you devote some time to catch up on the latest tech advancements. By studying the latest developments out of Silicon Valley, you could give your department a technological boost to help it meet goals in the second half of the year and beyond.
 Spend some time with you team. Between family vacations and conferences that your team will be flying out for, try to schedule some time to get together and reflect. If your people work at multiple sites, bring them all together during the summer to build a rapport and get everyone aligned around common goals for Q3 and Q4. Or just take an afternoon to volunteer or get out of the office for some offsite teambuilding. Even if it’s a simple as grabbing drinks on a patio after work, a little camaraderie can help to raise morale and increase retention.

While it might be nice to catch up and get ahead while your colleagues are taking vacation, don’t forget to unwind and spend a little time with family and friends too. The year can be long, especially if you have major milestones to hit in the second half. Here are a few ways to reduce stress and go into Q3 energized and mentally rested:
 Get moving. Exercise can help you both physically and mentally. Make sure your taking advantage of warmer temperatures by getting out and being active. Whether it’s hiking, the gym, or a quick game of tennis or golf, physical activity will help you be more alert and mentally sharper.
 Get some sleep. The sun comes up earlier and doesn’t set until much later, but make sure the daylight hours aren’t wreaking havoc on your shuteye. Late nights can lead to unproductive mornings and cloudy thinking, so make sure your extra hours are affecting your judgment.
 Communicate with your work and home support groups. Make sure you’re talking about problems and not trying to carry too much of the load yourself. Work-life balance can get off track during the summer when kids are at home and weekends fill up fast, so make sure you’re being open and honest about what you need from people at home and at work.
 Control what you can control. Project deadlines may need to get shifted around to accommodate conferences and time off, but don’t get mad at others for putting a project behind schedule. Make sure to check calendars and build in realistic timelines. People are entitled to their vacation days, so make sure you’re not blaming others for not tackling their summers head-on as well.

Don’t let a slow summer set back your career goals. You can use this time without multiple projects and back-to-back meetings to work on initiatives that will set you up to stand out in the second half of the year. The important this is to stay balanced. If you pile too much pressure on, burnout is a real possibility. You shouldn’t be afraid to take on a little additional responsibility, but make sure you’re not setting yourself up to fail. Summer is a great time to take care of the tasks you might not usually have time for, but make sure to carve out a little time for yourself and family, which also might be hard to come by as the year winds down.

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