Use Summer Downtime To Propel Your Career Forward
Ah summer! Slower days and vacations and, for many, Fridays off. Summer is a great time to relax and recharge. Summer is also the perfect time to focus on moving your career forward.
Here are some some actions you can take so that you will have taken a big step forward in your career come September.
1) Improve Your Network:
Summer is a slower time for many people. Business can be slow, people are used the rhythm of “summer.” Fewer people are in the office because they are on vacation.
Counter-intuitively, that makes it a perfect time to improve your network. Because of the slower pace, people have time for coffee or lunch. They answer your call or your email because they have a few moments to breath.
Added to this, there are fun and interesting summer events that many cities hold during the summer. You can seek out free outdoor lunch-time concerts, evening sport events, or simply outdoor happy hours. Many people now consider fitness classes to be great networking opportunities. Summer is a great time for this — the weather is good and everyone wants to get in shape during the summer. Investigate outdoor yoga or boot-camp classes to help you bond with people you want to get to know better.
The benefit of activities is that it gives you something to talk about. This is ideal for people who consider themselves shy. The game or the concert or the Pilates class brings its own topics to help you break the ice.
Whether you decide to look into interesting activities or just plan to have coffee meetings, planning for this now will help you make the most of your summer with the least effort. Scan your network right now and identify people you haven’t spent much time with lately. Then pick out some people whom you don’t really know but would like to get to know better. Look at your calendar and select a few good times — like block out every other Wednesday for lunch or for an evening activity, or every Friday morning for coffee. Then just start getting some meetings on the calendar.
2) Build Your Skills:
The summer pace gives you some breathing room, and this is a perfect time to build your skills. Attend a “learn to code workshop;” investigate conferences; sign up for a management training seminar or class. Putting these on your calendar early in your summer will ensure that you achieve something substantial when the busy fall resumes.
Another way to build your skills is to investigate volunteer opportunities where you can get some new experiences. One of my clients wanted to improve his business acumen so he spent time last summer researching non-profit boards. He wanted to find a cause he cared about — of course — and he also wanted to serve on the finance committee of the board so he could participate in those discussions. He learned a lot through that process and also met people who helped informally guide him.
Another way to learn is to take your downtime to read. Not everyone wants to read business books on vacation, but if you devote 2 or 3 hours per week to reading and self-study you will accomplish a lot! Some suggestions for you are: Negotiations — Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz and Getting More by Stuart Diamond. Career transition — Reinventing You by Dorie Clark and What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. Influence — Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath and Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. You could also read magazines and blogs in your field or on a topic you want to learn more about.
3) Recharge Your Productivity Routines:
All of us fall into habits — some good and some bad. Use the summer as a time to step back and reflect on the habits and routines you have in your life that either improve your productivity or detract from it.
Is your morning routine frazzled or non-existent? Step back and think about how you can carve out a small amount of “calm” time in the morning with mindfulness or music or something else you find restorative. If you have fallen off your fitness program use the summer to see if you can get back into it.
Summer is also the perfect time to experiment with new productivity habits. For example you know you should get the most important thing done in the morning, before email, but how often does email take you off your game? How about using the finite period of the summer to practice, with discipline, using the first hour of your morning to focus on top strategic priorities or long term projects? Experiment and see if you can retrain yourself. Once September comes you will used to a new level of productivity and accomplishment.
How are you going to use your precious summer to fast forward your own career? Let me know in the comments or email me at Alisa@AlisaCohn.com.
Originally published at www.forbes.com on May 30, 2017.