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Vacation: The Big Summer Dumb-Down

Vacation: The Big Summer Dumb-Down
[lead]‘Tis the Season!

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No, not that season . . .‘tis Vacation Season!

You know . . . sun, sand, and a frosty drink in your hand.  A time for you to happily shut that laptop and frolic off to your family’s favorite relaxation destination.

But, before you silence your calendar reminders and turn on your auto-responders, be sure to spend some time preparing for summer’s most dangerous side effect:

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Team productivity understandably slows during the summer months, with Jim vacationing this week, Sarah traveling next week, the boss jet-setting off to foreign lands for two weeks, three of your salespeople working remotely, and so on.  It seems a skeleton staff is the accepted and expected norm during this time.  So how can you prevent your activity pipeline and mental acuity from drying up while your office is a ghost town?

Forbes published a great article about how to keep productivity consistent during the summer months.  Here are some tips the writer shared that we think are pretty universal – whether you’re out for vacation leave, medical leave, family leave or any other extended time off.

1. Plan Ahead.

Well, obviously.  Even the most lackadaisical employee knows not to leave a bunch of unfinished business behind when taking extended time off.  Planning ahead is tactful and conscientious, and shows your co-workers that you’ve done your best to make their job easier, when covering for you.  Sit down with your team to plan for the least disruptive dates for you take some personal time – BEFORE you schedule that time off, if possible, and follow up that conversation with a written plan of how your work will be distributed in your absence.  The door might not be hitting you in the rear as you run out to the beach, but don’t leave a disaster in your wake for everyone else to deal with, either.

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2. Communicate

Before (and after) your time off, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with clients, co-workers and anyone else who relies on your input to keep things moving forward.  You don’t want to come back to a mailbox full of increasingly annoyed messages from the client, wondering why her request has been ignored for 8 days.  Or missing a reimbursement deadline because you didn’t connect with your payroll team beforehand.  Or losing a big sale because your hot lead didn’t get his executed contract back from you in time.  Make a countdown and checklist, communicate your plans with your internal/external team along the way, and have back-up procedures in place for when things go wrong.  (Wouldn’t you rather have that contingency plan in place now, than while you’re juggling spotty wi-fi at your secluded resort?)

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3. The Kiddos.

Working parents have the challenge of coordinating child care during the summer, which requires a great deal of advanced strategy.  If/when those plans fail (for a million different reasons), you may be forced to take unexpected time off, or bring your son/daughter into the office with you.  These surprise “Bring-Your-Kid-to-Work” days can be great – who doesn’t love getting a funny, spirited and joyful visitor at work?  But with this delightful tyke’s presence comes unpredictability, distractions and even potential dangers (spilling hot coffee, tripping on laptop cords, squealing during conference calls, etc.) Piecemealing a Plan B, C or D together at the last minute can be disconcerting for everyone, so do yourself (and your sweet kids and patient coworkers) a favor, and have a list of friends, family, and drop-in care providers on call for any of these unplanned extended care hiccups.

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4. Shift priorities as needed.

Just because it’s important to you today – right this minute – does not mean that your request is at the top of another team member’s list of priorities.  And that goes both ways.  Asking a co-worker for ideas, approvals, signatures or revisions as you’re rushing out to catch your flight to Las Vegas will put everyone in panic mode.  Instead, think about what the top priorities are for the team (this might even mean looking ahead a month or two) and tackle those items based on everyone’s availability and bandwidth during the summer.  Bottom line, be flexible and shift priorities as necessary, to keep the big picture (not just your picture) top of mind.

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5. When the cat’s away . . .

Look, we all do it.  When our superiors take time out of the office, we welcome the chance to relax our pace a bit.  Even without supervision, though, we have to remember the numbers don’t lie.  Your performance metrics are going to catch up to you eventually, so sure, relax in small increments, but spend your time industriously, no matter what.  Unconventional does not mean unproductive.  (Heck, you might even use this as your chance to earn a gold star with stand-out performance!)

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6. I’m here. Where’s my participation trophy?

Are you getting a paycheck?  Is it the same amount as it always has been?  Then, for gosh sakes, don’t skimp on quality.  Your son’s little league team might give participation trophies just for showing up on the field, but your boss is unlikely to reward your presence in the office the same way.  Poor performance during the summer isn’t balanced out by the laurels of previous busy months, so earn your paycheck.  Every day.

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There are so many other ways to keep productivity buzzing during the summer.  Now is the perfect time to hone your rusty skills with some great online tutorials, or practice your sales pitch until it’s infallible, or do some research on the next “big thing” to stay ahead of your competitors – whatever you do, make sure the relaxed pace and warm sunshine don’t derail your otherwise smart work-related choices to stay resourceful all summer long.

Have any other good tips to share for staying focused at the most unfocused time of year?  Share them with us.

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