Overcome Summertime Procrastination + Still Have Time for Fun


First, a confession: I’m a summertime procrastinator {hello...this blog only took a month to write}. Working after lounging on the patio all afternoon in the heat or having “just one more” mojito is not always ideal for getting my productivity wheels moving. My running list of manuscripts to submit is exactly the same as a month ago -- but I've been having fun!

Yes, we’re finally getting some gorgeous days outdoors and hosting barbeques. Or we’re heading out on holidays, maybe camping or taking a road-trip. The distractions are endless. Yet, we still need to accomplish things. What's the balance between being productive and embracing the next month of summer without feeling like we're missing out?

Here's the truth: we need to intentionally make our work happen if we're going to be successful. We can also make this work much more enjoyable! To help us {me included!!} get to those papers that have been sitting untouched "until later," I've pulled together a few tips to make our summers more successful.


Be realistic

Before planning to get some work done later, ask yourself a question: "Really?"

  • Are you really going to get some writing done while you're sitting at the beach?

  • How many times have you taken work with you on a trip and never touched it?

  • Has working from home while you've hosted guests worked for you in the past?

If not, you might need to reevaluate your plans. While I can get a lot of work done on planes and in airports (like travelling to my last conference), I often drop the ball once landed at the destination. There's just too many things to see! And eat! And I'm usually ready for a break from thinking about my work.

Knowing that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, my plans for holidays do not include work anymore and I give myself permission to take time to explore, rejuvenate, and meander. This helps me from feeling guilty that I'm not doing what was intended (work), and I enjoy my vacation so much more (and am more productive when back home).


Forgive yourself

If you've had a particularly bad bout of procrastination, you might as well forgive yourself and move on. The results of Wolh, Pychyl, and Bennett's (2010) study of the impact of self-forgiveness on procrastination in students indicated that:

"Forgiving oneself for procrastinating on a given task is related to less procrastination on a similar task in the future.This relationship is mediated by negative affect, such that self-forgiveness reduces procrastination by reducing negative emotions.The presence of this relationship depends on the extent to which the individual procrastinated on the first task. In our study, only at high levels of procrastination on the first exam was self-forgiveness negatively related to procrastination on the second exam." Timothy Pychyl, Psychology Today (@procrastwitate)

Sometimes we need to be a bit more gentle on ourselves!


Change locations

I'm an advocate for optimizing your writing environment, including adding plants or smells to pep things up, and sometimes you need to break out of your office to get momentum. Working from a restaurant or coffee shop patio on a gorgeous day can feel very luxurious (you can even get a little bubbly to make it feel extra fancy) and research indicates that the ambient noise created in these environments can boost your creativity.

If you're workplace bound, like I am during weekdays, I'll snag a bench or picnic table on campus, although the glare from my laptop can be a bit much at times (this might be a solution: matte screen protector). On the weekends, I also have a spot on the patio with shade all day and where I can sit in a relatively ergonomic position.

If you've checked out my Instagram, you might have seen where the real magic happens (and where I'm writing from right now), the fire pit. Fresh air, the sounds of nature, a crackling fire, and proximity to an extension cord - a winning writing combo.


Start early in the day

I've hear this over and over: the first 2 hours of the day are the most productive. There are definitely benefits to getting writing out of the way for the day and working we're "most alert."

We're not all morning people. Totally get it. I do not consider myself "alert" at 8 am {insert cackling}. I'm generally in the camp that says we should work with our circadian rhythms and become aware of how our energy fluctuates during the day. For me, the late afternoon is when I enter the zone.

If I have heavy meetings through the day, however, I'm not mentally fresh enough to get any decent writing done by 3 pm and have now rescheduled my writing time to the mornings. Has it worked well for me? Mostly, but at least I'm getting daily writing in.

What's more pressing in the summers, though, is our battle with willpower and options. After facing a multitude of decisions all day long, our willpower gets worse as the day goes on - this is decision fatigue. This why it's easier to hit up the couch instead of the gym; similarly, it's easier to have a dinner out with friends instead of writing, which you were "going to do later tonight." Just get it over with.


Go all in

Jason Silva is famous for his musings on creativity (a couple of my faves are A Philosopher's Mind Trip and Jolt Yourself out of Your Routine). He often describes the importance of "disconnection from distraction" and taking ourselves out of the daily context into a new experience or place to expand our creativity, which Steve Jobs referred to as "just connecting things." I apply this thinking to breaks, and in the summer, fun times.

[Tweet "Creativity is just conneting things - Steve Jobs"]

There's evidence that breaks help us make mental connections, and that the lateral thinking that accompanies daydreaming can result in 'aha moments.' Instead of half-assing it when we're tired, like when we pull out the laptop during a movie, what about just disconnecting from work and our devices?

GO ALL IN! Get all up in your break's grill. Invite your friends over; have a movie marathon; fire up some popcorn; bring on the candy and ice-cream; get in your pjs; close up your email. Make your downtime really matter. It might make you  more focused and more creative tomorrow.


Short, concrete deadlines

Ok - this is the boring one of the bunch, but if we're short on time and want to get things down, this is our jam. If you have a 30 minute block of time, try setting a small and specific goal like writing a single paragraph. I guarantee that completing one paragraph within 30 minutes will feel more manageable, hence more enjoyable, than "getting back into that paper" without a concrete objective.

Once you've completed your task, you might also consider writing down your objectives for the next session so you can jump right back into writing without having to reorient yourself, which is a less efficient use of time.

What tips are you going to try?

After having a pretty brutal few weeks of writing, forgiveness and reality sounds right up my alley, so I'll report back as to how that's going for me. I've been dabbling with the morning routine, small goals, and location and feel like I've progressed more over the last few weeks.

What's the one thing you will implement this week to maintain productivity this summer?

Do you have any other tips that have helped you stay focused this summer?

MindsetJill Norris