In nearly every industry, the pace of work slows in the summer. But what would happen if you kept the relaxed summer schedule for more than just a season? The way you spend your time can tell you a lot about the life you’d really like to be living if you pay attention, says Hillary Rettig, productivity coach and author of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.
“During summer we all have a sense of spaciousness,” she says. “Many of us think, reflect, plan, and experience. That’s exactly what people may not realize is the key to achieving any ambitious goal.”
Summer can be a stark contrast to the rest of the year, where we’re often in a rush to get things done. “We are reinforcing each other to speed the heck up,” says Rettig. “We’re living in a deadline-driven world. Deadlines are useful productive tools, but constantly being under deadline creates stress, and people shut down as a result.”
Summer is the opportunity to experience freedom and then use it as a barometer to adjust your schedule beyond, says Rettig. Use the time to do these three things:
1. Observe Your Behavior
Start by paying attention to your feelings and emotions. “I’m a hardboiled New Yorker and not into touchy feely, but feelings are data. Emotions are data,” says Rettig. “Summer gives you space to figure out how you feel. Are you on a path that feels natural?”
Being authentic, doing the work you feel good doing, is good from a productive standpoint. “People do way better if they’re working on what they really want be working on,” she says. “Sometimes you might feel there is something wrong with you because you’re underproductive. It’s often that you’re just working on the wrong project. Summer gives you the space to figure it out.”
2. Create A Summertime Budget
Decide how you want to spend your weeks, and consider experimenting. “Do a soft launch of something,” says Rettig. “This is a good time to do stuff that is important but not urgent. [The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People author] Stephen Covey calls it ‘quadrant two stuff.’ He pointed out that it’s the stuff that facilitates your growth. We don’t grow if we’re busy putting out fires.”
During the summer, Rettig keeps a small to-do list. “It’s not because I don’t do a lot; I focus on the important stuff, giving it lavish time,” she says.
3. Carry It Forward
Once you collect data during the summer, carry the insights, behaviors, and habits past Labor Day. “This might be hardest part,” she says. “It’s about watching and managing how you spend your time.”
Get rid of the things you don’t want to be doing, and make a commitment to using the time you have well. If something doesn’t serve you, such as participating in a group, leave it for the summer and decide if you want to resume it in the fall.
“Half of time management is figuring who is your authentic self and what it wants to be doing and the other half is making that happen,” says Rettig. “Summer is a good time to work on the first half. Our whole culture is oriented toward taking a break, slowing down, and doing some of this work.”
If you go into summer with the mind-set of staying in mode, you’ll be in a better position to carry the lessons over the fall. “The key is resisting the social pressure that will happen in the fall,” says Rettig. “Remember that the excessive business speed is not a virtue. Once the whole culture gets oriented toward speeding around, other people will start trying to take a bite out of your time. If you haven’t sorted out your own time management issues, you can get swept back into that frenzied pace. Do you really want to spend all year waiting for the two or three weeks you can finally live your authentic life?”