As the school year begins again and summer vacations come to an end, it can be easy to fall into a post-summer productivity slump. Whether you're thinking back to a great vacation or burned out from a summer of long working hours, increased distraction can cause your work to stagnate. Standing still doesn't benefit any employee, and when leaders slow down, so does everyone else. Whether your summer was relaxed or high-intensity, keep in mind that you're only halfway through the year, and there's a lot of work left to be done.
Getting your productivity back on track requires using your energy wisely, whether it's stockpiled from vacation or running on fumes. Here are a few ways to turn the end of summer into a springboard for a productive fall.
1) Prioritize High-Impact Goals
For leaders struggling to keep up momentum, a rule of thumb is to tackle the items that have the highest impact on your business first. That could look like changing a faulty process that slows the whole company or developing a service offering with huge potential benefits, and it's important to resist the urge to let easier, more menial tasks like email cleanouts distract you from the biggest challenges and opportunities for your business. If you focus your energy on completing initiatives that have a huge impact on your company, everything that follows will seem far more doable.
Use the energy and clarity you've gained from your vacation time and write down the top three or four items that have the highest impact on your business. Develop a strategy for execution and a timeline for each one, bringing in help from other members of your team as needed. Delegate smaller tasks to other members of your team or put them on the back burner until your high-impact goals are met.
2) Break Old Habits, Start New Ones
Has the allure of the outdoors distracted you from doing research on the new initiative you want your team to take on? Have your email response times slowed? Whatever the productivity-stalling habits you've developed over the summer season, it's important not to let them persist throughout the rest of the year. Just as kids can start anew each school year, the start of fall is a catalyst for adults to look at their work lives with fresh eyes.
Take time to identify the two or three places where you feel you need to improve the most and develop a plan for progress. Set a timeline and quantifiable goals that you can realistically meet. ("Connect with five potential clients each week" is more concrete than "Get better at outreach.") If you meet with a mentor or are part of a peer group of CEOs and other executives, consider sharing improvement goals and seeking advice and accountability from someone in a similar position.
3) Enjoy the Little Things
Once you've tackled the issues of highest impact and are back in a rhythm of productivity, you can reward yourself with dull but blissfully easy tasks. Clean out your inbox, check your mail, and catch up on data entry, voicemails, and other daily chores to relax your brain before you take on the next complex challenge.
Summer can often seem way too short, or too long if you're working through it, but don't let the end-of-summer blues bog you down. If you focus on moving forward through small achievements and think ahead to what you're excited to accomplish, you'll be ready to go back to the grind with more motivation than ever.