Dog Days

Maybe I’m feeling the summer slump because I took my summer vacation at the start of the season. I am in full summer mode, to the point where it is hard for me to get motivated to do anything…write, work, exercise, clean. I’ve gone through these spells before. This one though, this one is a mother.

Thankfully, I am not an outlier. A 2012 study conducted by the Captivate Network  (the company that brings you those eye candy elevator screens) found productivity plummets in the summer months by a reported 20% and distraction increases by 45% . The study also revealed that companies hoping to alleviate the summer slump by offering half-day Fridays in exchange for longer hours worked Monday-Thursday create greater stress among employees trying to squeeze everything in before the long weekend kicks off.

No, when the temperature rises, we fall. Our thinking slows. Our ability to be sharp and discerning wanes. Our motivation oddly yearns for the rainy day or the snow day that prevents us from going outdoors. If the world outside our captive walls is bright we want be in it. Work be damned. But when the world outside is wet, uncomfortable, unwelcoming, we burn our energy in productive pursuit. Is this where, perhaps, the reputation of cultures in northern climes being more industrious than those blessed with almost constant sun was born? I will not make a value judgment on which is better – productivity or pursuit of pleasure. I will, though, attempt to give my own methods of forward locomotion when summer entices me to slide:

  • Off Hours Work: The benefit of longer daylight means I don’t find myself desiring sleep as early in the evening as I do in winter. I take advantage of this nicety by working more at night. In fact, in many ways I throw out my conventional 9-5 thinking entirely and work when the urge strikes naturally.
  • No Judgment: If I don’t get everything done in a day I refrain from personal admonition. It’s summer for God’s sake. Nothing wrong with a little healthy indulgence. I measure my progress on a weekly basis until September rolls around.
  • Time to Explore: Having others in the same summer mode as I translates to slower email responses, meeting scheduling and project advancement. Rather than waiting around for someone to spur me to action, I explore an interest or new path that I don’t typically have time to do.
  • Personal Competition: As much as I don’t judge my pace of progress during summer, I do know it’s easier to challenge myself without a lot of outside demands. In late spring it is crazy for me to think I can speed up what I am doing since I am already operating at break-neck speed. But in August I can start work on a new line of business while everyone else is at the beach.

Am I necessarily skillful at following my own guidance? Not entirely. But in the midst of a bombastic summer slump, I am best advised to heed my own advice. Moving forward even a little is better than melting into a pile of unproductive mush.

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