It's inevitable: the weather warms up, school lets out, happy hours start earlier, and it's like we all take a big collective sigh as summer rolls in for real.

It's certainly good to take a break with the people we care about - and there's no question summer is an opportune time to do it. But with so many people taking summer vacations, long weekends, or simply beating it out of the office a little early, it can be harder to accomplish what's needed. That's why this season should be a prime time to step up your own game in the workplace. Here are 4 ways to ignore the siren song of summer - at least during working hours - and stand out on the job.

Volunteer. Be a great teammate and offer to pitch in when others are out on vacation. They'll relax more, knowing you've got everything well in hand (and, as a bonus, will likely do the same for you when it's your turn). And there are direct benefits to you: you'll develop a better sense of other projects (and company priorities), get the opportunity to make a good impression on people you don't typically interact with much, and learn something new. That's a win no matter how you slice it.

Pitch away. If work has slowed down at the company, it might be the perfect time to pitch a new idea, project, or strategy. It's helpful if you present your leadership with a thorough outline, the costs and benefits, and detailed research to support your pitch - the more data that tells your story, the better. As a leader, I'm always impressed by people who take advantage of a temporary lull to build internal momentum for smart projects that benefit both them and the company. The combination of smarts, resourcefulness and persistence is a winning one.

Look outside for inspiration. Sometimes the best ideas for work come - counterintuitively - when we're not immersed in the minutiae of our work. It's as though giving your brain a rest from its typical tasks - and challenging it with something new - helps accelerate inspiration, pushing you to that "A-ha!" moment much more quickly. If you're in a creative field, read something very different, like Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Left-brained? Try making something with your hands - take a cooking class, attempt painting. We all can benefit with just a bit of exercise: go for a long walk and focus on nothing in particular but being present with the experience itself. Even short meditation breaks during the workday can help get the creative juices - and productivity - flowing again.

Renew professional relationships. It's beneficial to hear what others in and out of your field are up to. The relaxed vibe of summer is the perfect time to reinvigorate those professional friendships that may have waned over time. When people have more time on their hands, with less pressure from deadlines and milestones, they're more receptive to connecting. Think about those professional contacts you wish you hadn't lost touch with. Shoot them a note or text - see if you can have a drink, take a walk, have a chat, grab some lunch. As a bonus, you may hear something that might spark ideas for your own role or company like opportunities for mutually valuable collaboration, for instance.

How do you make the most of the summer months professionally?