Now that summer’s pretty much here, many of us are probably daydreaming about frozen margaritas sipped on outdoor patios, beach days, long bike rides, and leaving work in time to enjoy several hours of daylight. When the clock strikes 5 ( or 2 on a Friday, anyone?), it’s natural to want to call it a day, turn off the computer, and enjoy the life part of the work-life equation.
But if you typically work nine or 10 hour days, how is this even possible? How can you realistically work a little less from June to September and still make your mark at work? Muse career experts have advice on how you can manage to be productive without being a workaholic.
1. Practice Open Communication
If enjoying free time in the evenings over the summer doesn’t sound like something your work life can support, try speaking to your manager about getting in earlier to justify leaving at a specific set time. They’ll appreciate your diligence, and you’ll appreciate a more flexible summer schedule!
2. Talk to Your Boss
Contrary to popular belief among many professionals, working ridiculous hours does not prove your worth. A good manager will work with you to be sure you are not overloaded If you’re working late every night over a long period of time, it might be time to speak to your boss about better distribution of responsibilities.
3. Hone Your Time Management Skills
Be mindful of what’s on your plate and strategically block out times to work on specific projects to ensure you’re getting what you need done so you’re able to enjoy some sun. If we’re not intentional about choosing how we spend our time, it can and will get away from us. Be mindful of your social media use and other distractions. It also can’t hurt to get in earlier and accomplish what you can while it’s quiet and then you're able to leave earlier and enjoy the extended daylight!
4. Set Boundaries
Be flexible, but clear. Consider the availability of others, but be frank about your own schedule. If your colleague wants to reschedule a meeting, remain positive and note that you are flexible during work hours and have obligations after 5 PM Monday through Thursday (and, if you can swing it, after 3 PM on a Friday afternoon in the summer).
5. Determine When Your Golden Hours Are
Track when you feel your most focused and productive. Are you an early bird, ploughing through projects, emails, and meetings before your co-workers even say ‘good morning?’ Or, do you naturally have the most brain power in the afternoon? Knowing this about yourself will enable you to harness your peak productivity hours by scheduling your most important work during this time. By focusing on your energy and not your time, you’ll have the remaining time to enjoy your summer fun.
6. Don’t Overcommit
Make a list of your top five priorities and work with your manager to define what success looks like for each of them. Keep track of your accomplishments as you work through your list, and don’t commit to additional responsibilities right now.
7. Minimize Water-Cooler Chats
If you’re looking for a tip to be even more productive at work, begin to notice and decrease your social chatting time. Use that extra 30 to 60 minutes a day toward producing higher quality work and checking more items off your to-do list. The time you save not chiming in to every non-work related conversation means more time outside enjoying your free time.
8. Plan an Interruption-Free Day
Ask your boss for one workday per week—or at least one morning or afternoon, at minimum—when you can work without any interruptions. Work together to create a plan (headphones, locked door, offsite location, whatever you need) to help make this happen. Use this time to be more productive and more creative, and to bask in the summer sunshine!
9. Focus on the Most Important Tasks
Begin by determining how much time you spend on specific tasks. Assess their importance or relevancy to your overall performance or a project. Then prioritize by addressing those tasks first. Once they’re complete, you'll feel more at ease, less stressed, and more accomplished—ready to get out of the office.
10. Work Smart, Not Hard
Before firing up your emails, social media, or whatever else can get you distracted before the day official starts, I recommend sitting down and making a list of the three top priorities you want to tackle. Each item needs powerful verbs and mini-action steps of how you visualize you’re going to complete it. Rank the tasks by difficulty level. Research shows the most difficult ones should be tackled first, so the rest of your day will feel productive, and you won’t feel guilty for walking out the door at 5 PM sharp.