Summer isn’t known to be the season for high productivity. Unplanned absences spike, especially on Mondays and Fridays and before holidays. These days off reduce productivity by 36.6%, according to a survey in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
But that doesn’t mean your company needs to suffer. Whether you’re fighting the urge to take a day off or picking up the slack from a missing team member, it’s a good idea to create a summer productivity plan. We spoke to six productivity experts who shared their best advice for getting work done during the summer.
1. Make a Plan
“If you’re leaning lazy during the summer, you’ll need a plan,” says Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert and author of The Time Management Memory Jogger. “One of the best things you can do is make lists.”
Do a brain dump and make a list of the things you need and want to do, she suggests. “For work-related tasks, focus on which ones are closest to the money,” says Duncan. “If you’re in business, that’s easy to figure out. If you have a job, that’s the thing in your job description that determines raises and promotions.”
For things you want to do, prioritize based on which ones will bring you the most joy. “You’ll need this combination to keep you motivated,” says Duncan.
Working from this list, start charting out your summer on your calendar, including milestones and deadlines, says Duncan. “If it’ll help, enlist an accountability partner who might need that extra push also,” she says.
2. Work In Sprints
Treat the summer like intervals, not a marathon, suggests leadership and organizational coach Peter Bregman, author of Four Seconds: All the Time You Need to Stop Counter-Productive Habits and Get the Results You Want.
“Work super hard for several days and accomplish a Herculean amount, then take several days off and enjoy the sun and surf,” he says. “Work hard, rest well. The hard work will keep you from being distracted by the temptations of summer, while the days off will help you enjoy those temptations.”
3. Let The Weather Guide Tasks
Take advantage of longer days and your location, doing tasks outdoors when the weather is nice or indoors when the weather is not, suggests professional organizer Andrew Mellen, author of Unstuff Your Life.
“No point in doing paperwork on a beautiful sunny day unless you can do it on your back porch, rooftop, or patio,” he says. “Even in the glorious hot days of summer, there will be rain. Save the indoor tasks for those days.”
4. Pare Down Your To-Do List
During the summer, skip the crazy long to-do lists, says Mellen. “Chunk things up into easily bite-sized pieces of no longer than 15 to 30 minutes at a time and make sure they are highly actionable,” he suggests.
If you need to brainstorm, for example, make a session just about thinking. Then schedule a different appointment with yourself to take action as a result of the brainstorm. If you combine a simple task with a clear action needed and give it a specific quantity of time, you’ll be more likely to do it, says Mellen.
5. Use Downtime To Tackle Projects That Get Put Off
With people on vacation and the office running at a little slower pace, tackle important-but-not-urgent projects, says productivity and business coach Lorie Marrero, author of The Home Office Handbook. For example, take care of computer updates and upgrades, or organizing files and desks. Then plan to donate old computers, monitors, and other technology equipment.
You can also have a big purge-and-shred day. “Order pizza for the whole team, have everyone show up in jeans or shorts,” says Marrero. “Organize your workspaces and files with a shred truck and large dump bin on hand to handle the volume. Give prizes for the oldest paper found, the funniest object to donate or toss, and the most money found—gift cards, cash, and checks are often uncovered.”
6. Plan A Vacation
Even if it’s just for a few days, plan a vacation, says Lisa Zaslow, founder of the New York-based organizing firm Gotham Organizers. “Knowing that you’re going to have time off creates real deadlines that will spur you to work effectively,” she says.
If you can’t get away for an extended period, schedule fun activities that feel like mini-vacations, adds productivity coach Carson Tate, author of Work Simply. “For example, I might schedule a long lunch with a friend that includes lunch and a pedicure, or schedule three hours off on Friday afternoon to take my daughter to a waterpark,” she says.
Just like wrapping up work before you leave, having less time to complete your work generates just enough adrenaline to help you focus, and the scheduled breaks ensure that you feel like you’re enjoying summer, says Tate.