5 ways to focus during the dog days of summer

It is important to find ways to stay focused, organized and on-task, even during summer when the sun beaming outside your office window is tempting.

Photo: Petras Gagilas via Flickr

We hate to break this news to you, Ferris Bueller, but unfortunately, hoping and wishing for an adult summer-vacation won’t result in much but wanderlust. Throw in the added addition of many events and the fact that kiddos are out of school — and staying loyal to your job responsibilities becomes that much stickier.

“During the summer months, longer days and extra activities in our personal lives can cause focus and productivity at the office to wane. Weddings, trips, family reunions — and, if you’re a working parent, the dreaded days when school’s out for summer mean extra planning for the kids that add to the already-frenzied hustle,” explains career expert and entrepreneur Autumn Manning.

She also adds that depending on what part of the country you live in, you may have just spent the winter months cooped up indoors and are now dying to be outdoors enjoying the sunshine as much as possible. All these factors can influence your productivity at work this season.

Since most professions still require your attention year-round, it is important to find ways to stay focused, organized and on-task, even when the sunshine beaming outside your office window is more than tempting. Here’s how to keep yourself accountable:

Prioritize your day

Much like with your personal finance budget, your upcoming European getaway or your mounting list of errands, staying organized at work helps to hold your attention and set your priorities. Career expert and entrepreneur Christopher Kingman recommends any sort of system that ensures your success—and ahem, attention span.

Depending on your working style and flow, you might color-code your calendar, set up blocks where you can dig through emails instead of being dragged into yet another meeting or even staying a bit later to enjoy a quieter office. To get started, make a thorough list of all of your upcoming deliverables, in order of importance and deadline. Then, you can map out how you’ll finish everything smoothly, effectively and smartly.

“Not only will this make you super productive and impactful, which you know, you’re company may appreciate, but more importantly you’ll be laser focused throughout the day, which makes you less likely to get distracted,” he says. “Just be sure to factor in a 15 minute break or two, not including lunch to mentally check out. Sometimes your brain could use a breather as well.”

Shift your working hours

How buttoned-up is your culture? If you lean more casual, Manning says to think outside of the traditional perimeters and see how much leeway your manager will give you with working days and hours. This might mean coming in a hour earlier so you can leave in team to savor more vitamin D, or even bargaining for a few summer Fridays a month.

“Many organizations now realize that flexibility in work hours and location isn’t just good for the employee, but it brings major benefits to productivity and engagement, overall,” she explains. “Such a change will allow for more flexibility in how and where to get work done.”

Just keep in mind if they agree to this shift, it is up to you to prove you can self-motivate and discipline by checking in, setting a clear schedule and remaining communicative, no matter if you’re working from a cubicle or a cabana on the beach.

Keep yourself busy

What your grandmother warned about idle hands and idle minds remains true: when boredom seeps into your job, you’re teetering into the danger zone of productivity. And for most industries, summer tends to be a tad more relaxed than other seasons, meaning it is often up to you to create the busy-work required for your mental and professional health. Kingman says now is the time to ask your manager for more responsibility or the opportunity to try a new project idea.

“The great part about doing this, especially asking your boss what else you could do, is it can help build up your reputation as a team player or someone who is truly invested in the company. Taking an active interest in furthering your knowledge of the company, especially during a slower time is a great way to show drive and ambition,” he shares.

If your manager comes up empty since they have their all-inclusive Mexico vacation on the brain? Kingman challenges professionals to find a hole in your company’s dynamics — and fix it yourself.

“Chances are you know something that’s broken, a process, a technology, anything. Start working on making it better, however you can. Whether it be by learning more and educating others, or diving into process diagrams and flows, it’s a safe bet your boss will appreciate the drive to make the improvement and those impacted by the problem will be as well,” he adds.

Spend more time outdoors

From walking meetings through the neighborhood to taking your lunch outside, Manning says even a few stolen moments in fresh air will do wonders for your psyche. Remember, you’re not chained to your office or bound to your desk, so don’t make your computer your excuse.

“Take advantage of the nice weather while at work. Get curious and ask yourself, ‘how can I enjoy of the nice weather while I’m at work?’ ” she suggests. “Take a few minutes to step outside for a breather, go to lunch and sit outdoors with co-workers, or plan a team meeting for outside instead of in a conference room. Outdoor walking meetings always boost energy and offer a change of perspective, so try and incorporate these into your days.”

Play hooky for a day

Consider this your permission to feign a fever and finagle a stomach bug: Kingman says one easy way to stay focused is to take a day and completely, totally, 100% tune out. This means leaving your iPhone at home, turning off email and giving your mind a breather.

Whether you go for a run in the park, head to the beach or stay in bed all day, reading in your pajamas, exhaling can supercharge your creativity, pushing you to perform better once you’re back in office.

“The simple act of unplugging may seem hard, but taking a day off to unwind, decompress and gather your thoughts may save you days or weeks down the road if you truly burn out. Taking small breaks for yourself is an easy and mindful way to ensure long-term sanity,” he explains.

Psst: Take your ‘me’ day on a Friday, so you have the whole weekend to thrive off the benefits.

Lindsay Tigar|is a seasoned lifestyle and travel writer