How to Boost Efficiency at Work & School This Summer
Summertime! That long-awaited season of endless daylight, beautiful weather, outdoor activities, and vacation adventures. It's no wonder that, from an early age, we learn to associate summer with freedom and fun. But as an adult, your responsibilities don't end just because summer has arrived.
For students and employees, staying motivated in the face of warm weather can be a challenge. What’s arguably even harder than maintaining motivation is maintaining productivity. Here are some tips to help you boost efficiency and stay on top of your work and studies, even as the outdoors beckon.
De-Digitize to Avoid Distractions
In today's always-on, ultra-connected digital world, distractions are more prevalent than ever. We've become so used to glancing at our electronic devices throughout the day that it's like muscle memory. But digital distractions can measurably impact your ability to complete work tasks or learn school material. During the summer, when daydreaming about outdoor fun already threatens to take the focus away from work or school, avoiding productivity-killing digital interruptions is more important than ever as you strive to get into the flow or the zone.
Consider the following to help you cut back on digital distractions and stay on task this summer:
- Unless you need them for work or school, try turning off your phone and email notifications to focus more during the day.
- Better yet, set your phone aside altogether (such as in a desk drawer or another room) when you really need to buckle down.
- Install apps that let you tune out distractions on your computer and smartphone.
- Stay away from the TV while studying, or hide the remote if your workspace is within view of a television set.
Break Down Your Tasks
Instead of feeling daunted by big tasks, make each one less intimidating and boost your efficiency by splitting the work up into smaller chunks and prioritizing what's most important first. Short intervals can make tasks easier to approach and faster to complete, giving you an improved sense of efficiency and accomplishment that can help fuel your productivity.
Whether you prefer to tackle easier subtasks first or get the tougher ones out of the way, organizing your work into a to-do list can be a helpful way to keep track of your day's priorities. And while it may be tempting to cram in an overwhelming number of items, keep your to-do list manageable and lean by only focusing on what really matters.
A sure way to catch the summer blues is to spend all day inside when you know it's beautiful out. So, go ahead and step outside for some fresh air and sunshine – it'll improve your mood and reinvigorate you for another burst of work or studying. Taking a break isn't just a convenient way to brighten your frame of mind during good weather, though. Mental fatigue is a major cause of productivity loss – your brain can literally tire out from trying to do too much. Let your mind reset with a few 15-minute breaks throughout your day, and you'll be more productive in the long run. How's that for a win-win?
Set Boundaries to Prevent Burnout
It's tough to stay motivated and keep working hard when you're exhausted or overwhelmed. To prevent burnout, set up boundaries and schedules that you can stick to. Keeping specific times reserved for work and for school is not only good for discipline and motivation, but also protects your personal time so you can make the most of the summer season.
Look for useful strategies for keeping your work, studies, and personal life in proper balance, including:
- Map out your tasks so you can set clear expectations for yourself and chart your plan of attack.
- If you find yourself checking work emails in bed at night or in the mornings or at the dinner table, put down your phone – the emails can wait.
- Carve out time for family and the important relationships in your life. Establish days off or hard quitting times if necessary.
Remember Your Environment
As the dog days of summer wear on, it can get easy to feel bogged down by the sameness of your work or study environment. If you find yourself staring out a window instead of at your screen, here are some ways to mix things up:
- Take advantage of the beautiful weather by setting up an outdoor workspace. Your deck, backyard, or even a community garden can all be great locations.
- If you have a conference call or an online lecture scheduled, grab your headphones and take a working walk instead of remaining stuck at your desk.
- Study or work in a place where others are doing the same – it's easier to concentrate when you’re in an environment where others are working, too. Find your favorite coffee shop and grind away.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
The strongest motivation comes from understanding the greater purpose behind what you're doing. Keep your career or educational goals in mind, even as you trudge through the daily grind. Relating your work to a specific goal can help you refocus whenever you start to slip, and the more focused you are, the more efficient you are. Enjoy the summertime, but use your goals to help you zone in when vacations and other leisure activities throw you off target.
Need a little extra help keeping your motivation up? Writing down your goals is a great way to hold yourself accountable to them. Hang yours in a place where you can see them each morning, for a daily reminder of what's driving you. Make a vision board, record your progress frequently, and tell your friends and family what you’re trying to achieve. There's actually research that suggests sharing your goals and progress toward them with friends and family can increase your chances of success.
Reward Your Success
You don't have to be a psychology major to understand how rewards impact motivation. If you really feel like you're starting to drag this summer, think of ways to treat yourself for a job well done. If you want to take a weekend trip to the beach, make the trip your reward for completing a major work or school project. You can even turn simple pleasures like watching a movie or grabbing an ice cream into rewards for sticking to your daily routine. The important part is that you feel rewarded for your effort, which can make it easier to stay motivated as summer stretches on.
Summer is a fun, exciting time of year. To keep your summer a productive season, too, keep our tips in mind. By focusing on and breaking down your goals, setting boundaries, switching things up, and rewarding yourself at the end of the day, you can maintain your motivation levels and boost efficiency at work or at school all season long.
Written by Ashford University staff.