5 ways to defeat the summer work slump

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So you're not vacationing in Maui. Or even Milwaukee. You're sitting in an office, feeling like a kid in summer school, blinking at the florescent lights when you'd rather be squinting at the sunshine.

That's life as a grown-up. Fortunately, there are several ways to shake off that lethargic feeling and take advantage of the summer lull:

1. Prepare for upcoming fall tasks. Sure, you may be jealous that half your team members are taking exotic vacations. But won't they be green with envy – over their tans, of course – when they see you've already created and finessed a timeline for your 2016 Q1 project?

Fewer people means fewer distractions, so take advantage of the ghost town office to focus on upcoming work, suggests Peggy Duncan, productivity expert and founder of PersonalProductivityExpert.com.

2. Rethink your team's work processes. Speaking of those team members, what if you must take on some of their work as they frolic along sun-baked beaches? In theory, Duncan says, accessing your team member's work should be easy. In reality, inconsistent documentation and disorganization can turn a simple task into an infuriating guessing game. "If you file your documentation with no rhyme or reason to how you did it, you memorized where you put things," Duncan says. "But other people can't read your mind, so how would they find it?"

Use the summer to get your team organized by agreeing on consistent procedures that all team members must follow. For example, everyone planning to be out of the office could share his or her unfinished work on a shared drive, so others can access it. You could also suggest a shared workflow document that details who is in charge of what when various team members are unavailable.

3. Find ways to be more productive. "Why not use this slow time to really look at how you work and figure out better ways to get it done?" Duncan asks. Stop and consider what tasks consume a lot of your time each day that shouldn't. Stumped? Keep a daily time log to track your activities and how long you spend on them. "The biggest time-management mistake is not realizing how much time [you] waste," Duncan says.

After determining what you're wasting time on, research strategies to handle it more efficiently. For example, consider your imploding inbox. A 2012 McKinsey Global Institute study found that the average worker spends 28 percent of the workweek reading and answering emails. Duncan suggests saving time on email by analyzing what people typically ask of you in their messages. If co-workers typically request data, for example, perhaps you can provide that information in a shared spreadsheet, so there's no need for emailing. If external emailers ask questions that your website answers, suggest that the site needs a more intuitive design for users.

Duncan also recommends familiarizing yourself with Office Outlook shortcuts, if that's the program you use. For a summer project that's only slightly less appealing than your co-worker's scrapbook of scuba diving in Fiji, try these 12 steps to email rehabilitation.

4. Take a vacation. Wait a minute, you know you could scuba dive in Fiji, right? Or you could simply take a long weekend to check out your town's local attractions or get some R and R. In either case, research shows that taking a break from the office will make you more productive and happy when you return.

5. Have fun. What's that bit about all work and no play? It makes Jack and Jill and Susan the receptionist and Hugh the developer and Jaime the project manager dull workers. "Dull, for me, is burned out. And burned out people don't do good work," says Leslie Yerkes, president of Catalyst Consulting Group in Cleveland and author of "Fun Works: Creating Places Where People Love to Work." She points out that fun is not only, well, fun, but it raises morale, slashes stress and thus boosts productivity.

What better time to have fun in the office than the season associated with beach parties, road trips and baseball games? Hosting team picnics, sharing frozen treats and creating a summer soundtrack for the​ break room (hello, Beach Boys) are just a few ways to up the fun quotient in the office. These activities can go a long way toward accepting the fact that you're slugging coffee in an office, while your co-worker is sipping merlot in wine country.

As Yerkes explains, "the adrenaline and the laughter and the endorphins created in that spontaneous fun​ ... might give [workers] the little extra boost they need to get through the day."

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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