How to work in the summer, when you don’t feel like it

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Do you know how to work when you don’t feel like it? These seven tricks can help you survive the hottest summer….

Compared to the rest of the year, my phone rings half as often in the summer and my email takes a dip of about a quarter. (Regrettably, my spam still arrives with the daily regularity of a family demanding dinner.)

Worse, the temperature in my office climbs by at least eight degrees in the summer. I live in a rainy city where home air conditioning is uncommon because there are usually only three or four days hot enough to warrant it. But my office is in a loft at the top of our home and you know the thing about heat – it rises.

While the rest of our house might be a balmy 22 degrees centigrade (71 F), I’ll be sweating it out at 30 degrees (86 F). I finally broke down and bought myself a portable air conditioner a few years ago but it doesn’t work well. The loft is long and narrow, and there’s no door I can shut. So, I point the device at myself and use it like a fan. Truth be told, on some days, I just don’t feel like working.

If the summer doldrums ever hit you, here are seven ways to cope:

  1. Work shorter days. There’s no rule saying you always have to work 40-hours, 52 weeks a year. In fact, if you’re self-employed, there’s no rule about how many hours you have to work, period. If you can, use the summer to work only five or six hours a day. Either start later or finish earlier and enjoy the chance to get more sleep or socialize more with friends. Don’t feel guilty about it!
  2. Use your chronotype to schedule yourself. What’s a chronotype? It relates to your circadian rhythms — the times at which you naturally want to go to sleep and be awake. If you’re a night owl, or a morning lark, or what’s called a “third bird” (somewhere in between), you’ll not only have clear sleep preferences, you’ll also have distinctly more energy at certain times of day. I used to be a night owl but now I’m a morning lark and I always schedule my most important and hardest tasks for the mornings, when I have the most energy. Figure out your chronotype and schedule your work for when you’ll be most productive. This site might help you determine your highest energy times.
  3. Set some (really small) goals. When we’re taking it “easy,” it’s tempting to declare a moratorium on goals. “I’m taking it easy,” we like to tell ourselves. “There’s no need for me to plan.” Don’t be such a dummy! If you’re going to work, you want to accomplish something reasonable from your efforts (otherwise you’re better off just declaring a holiday). Set yourself really small goals and then congratulate yourself for achieving them. Summer is a great time to do tasks you’d never manage to fit in during the regular year: planning for next year, organizing your files, learning a new piece of software.
  4. Disconnect. Don’t do what I sometimes do — spend endless hours on your email. Or what some others do — spend endless hours on Twitter, Facebook or surfing the Internet. You’re not taking it easy just to have your life sucked away by your computer! If you have a hard time controlling your browsing habits, download Freedom or Cold Turkey,  two apps that will allow you to block certain sites from your computer for however many minutes you declare each day.
  5. Change your work location. Changing your location is a really great idea for giving yourself the boost of a fresh scene. Whenever it becomes unbearably hot in Vancouver, I’ll take my laptop out into my backyard and work under the shade of our apple tree for a couple of hours. If it’s too hot even for that, I’ll take my laptop to my local library or coffee shop, both of which are air conditioned.
  6. Make sure you drink enough water. When it’s hot outside you need to drink more water to keep yourself hydrated. And keep in mind that if your focus is wandering, caffeine can help. Consider iced coffees or strong iced-tea (home-made to manage the sugar better.) The following advice might blow your mind, but you could also consider strategically taking a caffeine supplement, which you can buy over-the-counter at most pharmacies. I wanted to break my Diet Coke habit several years ago, so I investigated how many mg of caffeine it contained — 76. Then, I replaced the Coke with Kombucha (a lightly carbonated drink made from fermented tea) + a caffeine supplement, which I gradually reduced. In less than a month, I’d weaned myself off Coke with no cravings whatsoever. Now, when I want a caffeine boost, I just have a coffee.
  7. Take more breaks. When it’s hot outside, your body uses more energy to survive. Be sure to give yourself enough breaks. If you know of an air-conditioned gym, you can use these breaks to get some exercise. Or you can go to the beach or a neighborhood pool to grab a swim. True, exercise requires you to expend energy, but, paradoxically, it also increases the energy you have.

Finally, make sure you get enough holiday time in the summer. Don’t think you’re being super productive by foregoing holidays. Creative work — like writing — is mentally exhausting.  And — guess what? — the fuel for your creativity is your own social, arts and exercise time. Do you spend enough time with your friends? Listen to enough music? View enough art? Go for enough walks? Stroll along the beach or in the forest? Do you ever see different cities or locations?

These are not niceties or optional tasks — they are like gasoline for a car or milk for a baby. They are what you need in order to write. But how will you do any of them if all your time is scheduled for work? Make sure you get enough breaks for rest and relaxation. These breaks will power your writing.

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If you want to use the summer to establish a reliable writing habit, consider applying to my Get It Done program. Application deadline for starting Aug. 1 is this Thursday, July 25/19. Learn more about the program, and, if you’d like to view a video about it, email me for the link. To apply, go here, scroll to the very end of the page and select the bright green “click here to apply now” button.

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My video podcast last week aimed to help you become a better interviewer. Or, read the transcript, and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email, Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.

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How do you work during the summer? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by July 31/19  will be put in a draw for a copy of my book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!