Summers have always been a difficult time to keep myself motivated. It was tough when I was in school, it was tough when I was working full time, and it’s tough now that I’m somewhere in between. What is it, really, about summer that makes it so difficult to keep getting things done?

Well, for one thing, nobody else seems to be working, so why should you? People are on vacation left and right, holidays keep popping up, and excuses for coming in late or leaving early abound. Plus, as an anecdotal observation, it seems that those in charge with enforcing these regulations are more lax during the summer than during other times, especially if you work for a governmental organization.

The other thing that keeps anyone from truly getting as much done as they’d like during the summer is the weather. If it’s too hot, it’s hard to work. If it’s too humid, it’s hard to work. If it’s just too nice outside, it’s hard to work. There are so many other things that you’d rather be doing (not that you can really name many of those things right now, but we all know they exist). You can’t wait for 5 o’clock or the weekend to come, so you can tackle those things.

Here’s another dynamic duo that keeps many of us from getting things done in May, June, July, August, or September:

  • BBQs
  • Cold Beer

Individually, either of these factors can be enough to derail even the best intentions, but together they pose an especially dangerous combination – few humans are capable of resisting their lure.

So what are we to do as students and professionals when some comes around, as we know it will?

  1. Lower your expectations. Let’s all be honest – none of us can get as much done as we would like in the summer. Just be up front about that whole phenomenon and save yourself the stress of not meeting unrealistic expectations.
  2. Don’t schedule major deadlines in the summer, especially on larger projects. Even if you are able to overcome the myriad of distractions that we’ll all face, much of your staff and co-workers will be off doing summer things (see BBQs and Cold Beer above). Don’t expect them to come in early or stay late to meet the deadlines in July.
  3. Build more flex time into anything that needs to get done over the summer. Things simply move slower. Account for it up front or pay for it come deadlines.
  4. Get the low hanging fruit. It can be especially motivating to see how much you’ve gotten done – even if those things are little, easy, or both. Summer can be a great time to clean your workspace up, finish up those invoices, or get all of your expense reports done. These are things that need to get done – why not do them now?
  5. Adjust your hours. If it’s light at 5:30 AM and you’d like to spend the afternoon hiking, see if you can work 6 – 2. Or 7 – 3. Or 8 – 4. Any concessions from your employer (or from yourself if you’re self-employed) will make you feel that much better about working during the summer.

The summer is supposed to be a time of enjoyment, relaxation, rejuvenating, and refreshment. Don’t double-up your work efforts now and wind up burned out come October. It’s counter-productive and unrealistic. Make the most of your summers in order to make the most of the rest of your year.

What are you waiting for?