Have you heard of "Summer Slide?" You probably have if you're a parent—and you most definitely have if you're close with someone who works in education. "Summer Slide" refers to the tendency for students to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year.
As a mom to three school-age boys, it's something I try to be mindful of. I attempt heading into each summer break with a plan: summer reading logs, book clubs, math apps and camps. Of course, these initiatives are often received with eye rolls and complaints ... but I know if I don't push it, my boys will inevitably fall behind.
After putting this summer's plan in place for my kids, I started thinking: What about adults? What is our natural tendency when things around us slow down a bit? Do we assume those we do business with slow down as well? Do we allow ourselves to skip out of the office early for a round of golf, or do we take advantage of the time to tackle projects and ideas we've been pushing aside for several months?
In a perfect world, the answer would be both—especially if you live in a place like me, where we battle three-plus months of icy roads and frigid temps. (We deserve some summer fun, darn it!)
While it's perfectly fine to take a breather, the slower times are often the best opportunities for growth and success. If we're in a constant state of checking off to-do lists and just keeping our heads above water, innovation, creativity and growth are stifled. It's also not safe to assume that just because it's summer, business slows down everywhere.
Based on my experience and conversations with clients and co-workers, here are some tips for making the most of your "down time" at work:
Invite an outsider.
It's possible you once started a new job and thought to yourself: "Wow! That part of this company's website really stinks!" or "I wish someone did a better job of describing time off to me." But you didn't say anything at the time because it'd be inappropriate ... and you eventually forget about things that irked you. Fresh eyes on your business could be just what you need to receive extremely valuable input. Consider hiring someone from the outside to give certain areas of your organization a look-over—like your website, order forms, social media pages and employee handbooks. Did you hire new staff for summer? Ask them for their honest feedback.
No more teachers, no more books? Think again!
I recently read an article about the three things the most successful people do every day, and reading is one of them. Warren Buffet reads a whopping 80 percent of his day! If you're like me, you have no shortage of books you've purchased with good intentions of solving your biggest problems. So, dust those babies off and commit to reading at least one of them this summer. You won't feel so guilty about your time at the beach if you're reading about how to be more productive! Looking for something to inspire more creativity? Consider Pick Me Up: A Pep Talk for Now & Later, which is a fun and interactive book that aims to help you through challenges, personally and professionally.
Say What? The value of surveying.
If you've done surveys before, you probably already know how insightful they can be. If your feedback is positive, it feels like Christmas morning! If not, it still feels like Christmas morning—just with no presents under the tree. Either way, surveys can be extremely valuable to your clients, prospects, brand and employee satisfaction. In turn, it helps you prioritize where you should be focusing and applying your efforts for the future. You'll have much greater results if you offer a reward to those who participate, so include a special offer or giveaway.
Hug what you hate.
There are always those little (or big!) projects we sit on or "save for when we have time blah, blah, blah." It's simply human nature to work on things we enjoy the most! The problem is, projects we put off won't go away on their own and can eventually hurt your credibility if you're the one who's supposed to take it on. So, make the decision that you'll finally tackle that one thing that wakes you up during the middle of the night every few months. Block out time each day, and work on it first thing in the morning. Tell a manager or co-worker that you're committed to getting it done, and ask them to hold you accountable. You'll feel better and more accomplished in the end—and you may learn something new along the way!
Two, four, six, eight ... Use this time to innovate!
People are naturally more active in the warmer months, but it doesn't have to be all about fitness! Work and team exercises that encourage brainstorming, creativity and problem solving could lead to innovative solutions, fresh ideas and a more cohesive team. Consider mind mapping, gamestorming and design thinking when working on new projects and ideas. The ideas that come from these activities are critical to retaining loyal customers, gaining new ones, and staying relevant in your field.
Cheers to a fun and productive summer!
Written by Jill Carroll, Marketing & Media Consultant, Serendipity Media.