With the summer months upon us, it may be tempting to take a vacation from your daily grind–whether you are looking for a job, starting a business, writing a novel, or working from home. While I’m of the mindset that taking time out to rest, rejuvenate, and bask in the summer sun (at least a little bit) is essential, it is also important to keep up the momentum– especially if you are new to job searching or have recently taken on a less structured schedule. So what can you do?
Mark your calendar. One thing that has worked really well for me is to make use of a calendar app, complete with reminder alarms. I take inventory of the tasks I want (or need) to complete and how much time I expect them to take, then block out the time on my calendar. This works not just for the mundane chores but the fun stuff, too! You want to strike a good balance. By setting reminder alarms, I give myself a definitive start and end time for each activity. If a task is not complete, I can make a minor adjustment to that day’s schedule or just set aside more time for the task tomorrow. The other reason I like using a calendar is I can refer back to it as a quick reminder of what I have accomplished thus far!
But who’s keeping track? If keeping track of your activities on a calendar is not enough to hold yourself accountable, it’s usually a sign that you’ll need to take things a step further. Consider getting an “accountability buddy”–someone with whom you can check in, whether daily or weekly, and affirm that you completed the tasks to which you committed. When you have someone to “answer to,” it makes you more committed to get the job done.
If all your friends have decided to take the summer off (and are tempting you to do the same), consider using a resource like Stickk.com which will allow you to select a goal, set your stakes, and have a systematic way to report on whether you have successfully completed your goal. There are several other accountability trackers you can choose from–take a look and find the one that best meets your needs.
Conduct a simple cost-benefit analysis. Sure, the very term does not scream “fun,” but take a simple-yet-powerful look at the “cost” of vegging out for the summer. If you are job searching, for each day that you remain jobless consider how much money is not going into your retirement account. If your goal is to have a book published, imagine how much revenue you are leaving behind each day that your manuscript goes unfinished. Freelancers or solopreneurs who need to take on new clients in order to get to the next level- give a “value” to your days at the beach and see if the benefit outweighs the loss of potential revenue.
But can’t I do it all at once? You sure can try! I find this to work well at summer festivals, barbecues, parties–anything social where you can engage in in-depth conversation. Have your fun, but also create goals that you can accomplish while out and about. You certainly don’t want to aggressively sell your business/book/service or announce your job search at a social event. However, some form of “what do you do?” tends to be a typical conversation starter. Another option that has become popular is “what are you excited about lately?” Listen closely. Ask questions. Discover the other person’s needs. Come to the conversation with a genuine interest in learning about a problem your fellow event-goer has and identifying a solution for him or her. That solution may or may not involve a service that you can currently provide, but perhaps you can share a resource that would be helpful. By having a sincere desire to assist you can effortlessly develop a relationship which, somewhere down the line can lead to a big win for you!
Don’t beat yourself up if you bite off more than you can chew. While I don’t recommend indulging in rewards if you’ve been loafing around instead of checking off your to-do list, there certainly is the possibility that you overscheduled yourself. Before you get disappointed in yourself, figure out the “whys” and “hows” behind your unfinished tasks. Reflect: what are your “time wasting” activities, during which part of the day are you most productive, what did you put off, did you give yourself a reasonable amount of time to complete your tasks, did you have interruptions? By taking inventory, you can coordinate the next day’s schedule in a way that will work more optimally for you.
Celebrate your little victories. When you have a goal, it’s always important to provide a means for acknowledging your efforts and rewarding yourself for a job well done. Set aside your time for celebration, and go back to your to-do list feeling refreshed and accomplished.
Victoria Crispo, Career Coach