You know the feeling of an office in summertime. Especially one with windows.
Stare outside. Go on. Gaze at the sky like it will vanish tomorrow. It's okay. Ogle that big blue canvas. Watch the gauzy clouds drift. Now breathe. Focus.
Not on the sky. On your laptop screen. You have emails to write, still more to answer. And deadlines--always, deadlines.
That, of course, is one way to look at it. You can certainly make the case, as my colleague Kimberly Weisul has, that August is the ideal month for vacations. Why suffer through the desk-bound blues when summer awaits?
The thing is, I disagree with Kimberly. I believe August is actually the best time to get real work done. Here are seven reasons why:
1. You'll have fewer calls, texts, and emails to handle. Yes, it can feel as if the entire universe is on vacation. Everyone but you. Here's the good news: A radical reduction in your email traffic and personal calling or texting. Which means a real boost in productivity. According to an infographic from CareerBuilder, 24% of workers admit they waste (I mean spend) at least one hour a day on personal calls, emails, and texts.
Never mind how much time you lose when a long-lost college pal finds you in gchat. All of this is time you can now fully reclaim for yourself and your tasks.
2. You'll have an easier time entering a flow state. In August, while the world is away, you can buckle down, get your ass in the chair, and truly never worry about the time drain of social interruptions. Which means you'll have an easier time entering a flow state. Steven Kotler, author of The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance, defines flow as an "optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best." Imagine how much easier you'll get there with no interruptions.
3. You'll have fewer meetings to endure. Another time drain reported in the CareerBuilder infographic was meetings. 23% of employees surveyed listed meetings as a productivity killer. (Many of the remaining 77%, of course, are lying.) In August, with key employees on vacation, convening all-hands meetings is far less likely. Which means more time for you to get actual work done, and less time sitting there at meetings while a colleague rambles on incessantly about "playing devil's advocate."
4. You'll have the time to practice and learn a new skill. Regardless of what the skill is, practice requires time and purposeful repetition. August provides this time. For example, have you ever wanted to polish your presentation intros, but never had the chance to rehearse them while business was in full swing? Now's your chance.
5. You'll feel less stressed. Who among us doesn't feel as if she has too much work to do--and not enough time to do it? But as it turns out, the source of your time-management stress is not your actual workload. It's the way you perceive and process your workload, according to a book by Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte.
In the book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, Schulte explains how it can feel as if you never stop working when you're receiving emails on a smartphone in the middle of what used to be strictly leisurely activities (dining, watching TV, exercising, reading).
Work literally feels like it never ends, because technology (and our unwillingness to part from it) puts work at our fingertips, 24/7. But all of that neverending messaging ceases--or at least slows down--when August comes around. Which means you'll feel less stress at your job, even if your workload hasn't changed a bit. It's yet another reason why it pays to stick around the office in August.
6. You'll have more of a chance to listen to music. Let's face it: The office is much more fun if you can bop your head to some tunes while you're working. There are even some serious academic studies suggesting which songs can make you more productive. And what's better than a spontaneous office dance party?
And yet, in many offices, traditional notions of workplace etiquette rule the day. You shouldn't work with your headphones on because that's not how your parents went to work, dammit. (Yakety yak, don't talk back.) But in August, the rules are relaxed. In large part because the conventional types who usually enforce these norms are doing the conventional thing--they're taking a lengthy vacation.
Which means you might not get yelled at or even frowned upon if you plug in your headphones.
7. You'll win points just for showing up. Taking a vacation in August is the easy, expected thing to do. But by working in August, you'll earn tacit points with your colleagues for showing up at a time when it's easy to be absent. What are these "tacit points" of which I type? Well, like it or not, managers and colleagues still judge your performance by "face time"--how much time they actually see you working in the office.
That might not seem fair, in an era of virtual employment and the technology that enables it. But it's the truth of the matter, according to a study published in the MIT Sloan Management Review. "Managers were 9% more likely to unconsciously attribute the traits 'dependable' and 'responsible' to people who put in expected face time and 25% more likely to unconsciously attribute the traits 'committed' and 'dedicated' to people who put in extracurricular face time," note the authors.
So go ahead. Stare at the August sky. Let it beckon. Acknowledge it. Respect it. Then ignore it. You'll have more fun--and get more done--in the office than you will at any other time of year. And you'll win the respect of your colleagues for sticking around.