Staying productive in the lazy summer

It’s summertime!  In addition to time spent outside and by the lake, taking a vacation from work, and all that jazz, there’s also the dreaded boredom at work.  I’m sure everyone’s summer is different; maybe for you it’s your busiest time of year.  But for me – working at an educational institution – the summer is… for lack of a better word, dead.

The usual emails aren’t flooding in, colleagues are on and off vacation, no events are taking place, no fundraising appeals are going out… you get the idea.  It’s hard to stay motivated!  So, I’ve been playing around with a few different strategies to help with my motivation and productivity.

Eliminating email distractions
I learned recently that when you’re in the middle of something and an email comes in, distracting you from the task at hand, your brain takes around 60 seconds to recover from that distraction.  This happens to me constantly since I have my Outlook set to notify me when emails come in with a pop-up on the bottom right-hand corner of my screen.  I used to like this, but it really does take me out of what I’m doing.  So, I’ve eliminated this issue by setting it so no pop-ups occur.

I also changed the settings on my iPhone so that my phone only buzzes/makes a sound when emails from my contacts who I consider “VIP” come in (I know you can do this on the iPhone, but I don’t know about other smartphones).  That way, when I’m really invested in a task, I won’t be bothered by less important emails and can save them for later when I’m dealing with more menial things.

Sometimes it feels like all I do at work is reply to emails, so this strategy has really helped me focus on the important stuff, and save the emails for the right time.

Which leads me to…

Schedule for maximum productivity
I read about this in one of CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education)‘s weekly e-newsletters.  In order to be your most productive, the writer suggested the following schedule for each work day.

  1. Step 1: Spend 30 minutes scanning email and responding to urgent items.
  2. Step 2: Turn off email and other distractions.  Focus for 2 to 3 hours on completing your most important task (for the day).
  3. Step 3: Take a lunch break away from your desk.  Leaving your computer and recharging is the key to being productive after spending time on your most important task.
  4. Step 4: Devote the post-lunch day to taking care of ongoing tasks and other “reactionary work” that requires less mental stamina.

I’ve been playing around with this schedule and figuring out how it works for me, and it does!  It’s fabulous!  It uses your time and energy most effectively, maximizes productivity, and helps fight the boredom that I’ve been experiencing lately.

Do you have strategies like this that help you stay productive???  Please share them in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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