It can be really tempting to slack off at work during the summer, if even just a little. And a little is probably okay—after all, ‘tis the season for easing up on wardrobe formality, taking lunch in the park, and leaving early on Friday to beat the weekend getaway traffic, whether you’re the ED or an intern. Let’s hit the beach!
But keep in mind that you can also harness the bright energy of summer days to make some career-recharging moves. Here are a few ideas:
Consider a work/vacation mashup
It’s truly important to take time away from work now and then (whatever the season) to relax and rejuvenate, so by all means plan a summer vacation or two if you can. But you might consider also trying to hitch your vacation to something work-related to reap dual benefits. For example, if you’ve been thinking about visiting family in the Milwaukee area sometime this summer and notice there’s a conference you’re interested in taking place there in August, talk with your folks and your boss to see if you can work out a two-part trip. This serves many purposes: You’ll show your boss you’ve got your eyes open for work-related opportunities happening away from your desk, you’ll get to learn new things and meet new people in a new environment (#refreshing), and you might be able to cut some costs (staying with family instead of the conference hotel would save your org money; seeing if you can get your flight paid for would keep that cash in your pocket).
Pick up some back-burner projects
Sometimes it’s hard to get work done in the summer because your project partners keep going on vacation, or your boss’s phone doesn’t get reception on the cruise ship. When you reach impasses like these in your work, consider digging deep into your to-do list and bringing up smaller projects you can do solo or with the people sticking around at the same time as you. They may not be high-priority tasks (feel free to think as small as deleting old documents or reorganizing your desk), but that’s kind of the point: It’s too easy for non-essentials to get put on hold forever, and summer can be the perfect downtime to pick them back up and finish them once and for all, with less distractions to hinder your momentum. Bonus: Having taken the initiative on some back-burner projects will make you look great when your manager comes back from the Caribbean.
Take a hike, go fly a kite, etc.
At least once a day during the hot weather months, try to venture outside, if even briefly. Go out to pick up your lunch instead of having it delivered, invite a friend who works nearby to meet for afternoon coffee al fresco, or stroll to the park for a few minutes of dog-and-people watching. Lifehacker has some other good ideas. There are a ton of productivity benefits of doing this (the increased circulation from walking, the exhilaration of breathing fresh air, the mental break of getting away from your desk), plus the reality that this is summer, and even if you do still need to go to work most days, you should do yourself the favor of remembering that fact and luxuriating in it all you can. When Labor Day rolls around, you don’t want to don’t want to wonder where the last three months went.
Yes, we know this is very Idealist of us to suggest, but fun volunteer opportunities do proliferate in the summer season (park clean-ups, trips to the zoo with under-served kids, manning the registration table at the 5k fundraiser). And the potential career benefits of volunteering shouldn’t be underestimated—we’ve written a lot about them in our Volunteer Info Center and here on Idealist Careers.
Set up some good habits
Parlay the summer feel-good energy into your work life by picking up some new behaviors that can advance your career. Create a list of your accomplishments at work—then add to it from now on whenever you do something noteworthy. Invite a coworker you don’t see much to eat lunch together one day—then pick another person to ask next month. Research and decide on a professional development or networking activity to attend—and keep doing this once a quarter, at least. If you build up a roster of good work habits now, you’ll feel the effects in every season to come.