1. Calendar the craziness. Line up calendars for the next three months along your wall so you can see everything coming up at a glance. These might be wall-hanging paper calendars or dry-erase calendars; the key is to have the next three months visible at once. Then, add vacations for you and your team members, holiday celebrations, impending deadlines and family commitments, including swim meets and camp registrations alike. Include all elements of your life (work, home, community and self), considering different colors for each of those buckets. When you know what is coming, you can more proactively invest your time in achieving all of your desired results for each area of life.
2. Establish your non-negotiables from the get-go. As summer schedules tend to become a little more erratic than normal, you and your team need to know which items have less flexibility than others. For me, I absolutely must maintain my weekly strategy session and daily wrap-up, but the good habits that keep each individual on track productively will vary from person to person. Do you expect your team members to have certain hours during which they always work in the office rather than operate remotely? Is there an expectation for how team members should request vacation time or notify the rest of the team about a hiccup related to impending deadlines, which can be especially vital with varying schedules for summer vacations? This would be a good time to communicate leadership's expectations to everyone. Be as clear, concise and transparent as you can.
3. Focus your efforts on tasks, not projects. It's not possible to check a project off your to-do list in one sitting. "Plan a party" is not a single action item; instead, there are many actions that make up that project. As you are mapping out the next three months, take time to break larger goals into smaller, bite-sized action items that can be completed as individual tasks. Start each task with a verb so as to fuel action, break each task down to as simple of a function as possible, estimate how long each action item will take to complete so you readily know those tasks taking 10 or 30 minutes, and and assign a deadline for each task's completion.
4. Invest some time to reflect inward. With erratic schedules during the summer, many companies have fewer meetings that would otherwise be held at normal intervals; this can be the ideal time to review and reset some of your organization's key elements. When was the last time your team updated its mission, vision, core values, annual goals, processes and workspace organization? If it has been awhile, block out time during the dog days of summer to look them over and adjust as needed. Maybe you'll want to freshen up your customers' experiences, update what messages you are conveying across all mediums and put yourself in the client's shoes. Further, this can be an ideal time for a personal audit, where you assess what you have learned and achieved thus far this year, what priorities need attention in the coming months and what "someday" actions need to be scheduled so they move from to-do to done. Do your goals for work, home, community or self need to be adjusted, and how can you realign your actions to focus on achieving each?
5. Make time for fun and frivolity. If you block out time to truly enjoy the season, you'll be less distracted by what you are missing when you are focusing intently on getting things done. The "Fun Summer Activities Checklist" from Real Simple and "31 Totally Free Things to Do This Summer" from PureWow are excellent places to brainstorm what cool things you can do to dive into summer enjoyment; then, once you've blocked off time for those activities, your mind will be less likely to drift from working towards wondering when you'll actually be able to celebrate summer fun. Plus, when you are taking time to enjoy all this season offers, you can truly take a break from everything else since you've planned for when those other goals will be addressed.
What steps do you take to make summer more productive? Will you be implementing or attempting any of these here?