Hands focusing a cameraAh, summer!

Remember when you were a kid and you could hardly wait for summer to get here? It was a time to relax and play around, and ponder life’s mysteries while crawling around on your stomach in the backyard. Remember that?

And now, you’re all grown up and you own a business and summertime doesn’t always look so good.

But summer really should be about enjoying yourself, getting outside and hopefully, from time-to-time, getting away from it all. Of course, most of us don’t have the luxury of avoiding work all summer long, and sometimes, we’ve just got to roll up our sleeves and get busy, but that’s not always easy if you work from home. I’m sure just about any home or Internet business owner can relate.

For me, the many distractions of summer include the nice weather, lazing around in the pool, reading a good trashy novel, and the desire to just be out in the RV camping at the beach or just sitting on the patio sipping cool drinks with friends. Some of my best friends are teachers with summers off and they’re always trying to corrupt me! Even though summer can be great fun, I have learned to set my limits and turn off the distractions as needed.

Here are some summertime tips for you…

Set regular work hours: It’s simply Business Organization Skills 101, but it’s an important aspect to staying focused. If you set your work hours, not only will you know what you expect yourself, but also so will your friends and family. Take out the calendar and figure out what working hours are best for you from week to week, so there is no confusion for anyone, including yourself. Its okay if your hours vary around other fun things on the agenda. (Especially if you still have kids at home.)

Reduce your work hours: If you currently work 5 days a week the rest of the year, you might consider whittling down to 3 or 4 days in the summer. Even if we have the best intentions, we’ll always find ourselves looking out at the beautiful sunshine, thinking about how we’d like to be out there too. If you can, give yourself a break and just don’t work as much. You can achieve this by cutting down your schedule (for example, don’t blog as much), do a lot of work ahead of time, or hire some help.

Plan your work week, in detail: Now, don’t overload yourself with tasks, but make a list of items that absolutely need to get done and put them on your schedule. If you know what you need to do each time, you can motor through those items each day and perhaps you can even knock off early if you complete your list quickly. I find what works best for me is to set a timer and work for 50 minutes, rest or move about for 10, then back at it, focused only on the task at hand.

Plan your vacations: Just like you plan your work hours, plan your vacations — simply time off — ahead of time. Knowing when you’ll be in town and out of town, will help you plan your work better and get all the necessary tasks done before you leave. Ever notice how much work you can seem to cram in the day before you leave on vacation?

Try multiple short trips away from home: There shouldn’t be anything stopping you from taking an extended vacation if you want to, but if taking extended time away does cause you stress or you don’t have the help you need while you’re gone, try a few short trips. A few days away here and there can be a whole lot of fun, will cleanse your mind, and can reduce the overwhelm when you return to your office. If you’re anything like me, you’ll generate more ideas while you’re relaxed and away from your normal routine.

Limit social media to down time: While I see the value of social media for business, I think most of us waste a heck of a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter and the like. During the summer, I’d challenge you to keep your social media usage outside of your work hours and leave it for any downtime you have. Perhaps, while you’re relaxing on the couch in the evening or just soaking up some sun by the pool. Reserve your work time for, well, work.

If you have kids, get them busy: There’s no reason kids shouldn’t have fun all summer long. Hey, they’re kids after all. Get them involved in summer activities in your local area. Whether its summer camp or activities at the local library, there’s always plenty to do. And for goodness sakes, send them OUTSIDE to play often. If your kids are young and need supervision, consider organized activities or swapping babysitting favors with a neighbor. And if you’ve got grandkids, do the same thing with them. You’ll all be closer because of it, and how knows? You may set some child down the path of entrepreneurship, and we know what a great that can be.

Again, if you have kids (or grandkids), get them involved in your business or their own business: If you can’t always get the kids to entertain themselves, get them busy working with you or on their own business. There are plenty of business tasks that children can handle and what they do will certainly depend on their age and abilities but kids enjoy being part of your business.

Turn the phone off: If you don’t have to answer calls from clients or customers, turn your phone off while you’re working. That means no text messages or personal emails either. If you do have a business line that you need to answer, don’t give that number to your friend who keeps trying to get you to head to the beach or a patio to sip margaritas.

Outsource more: It’s been mentioned before and I’ll have plenty more tips in future posts, but you’ve got to get help for your business. It doesn’t mean you have to hire employees or people need to come to your home, but running everything yourself means being chained to your business all the time. At minimum, you should have a virtual assistant that can help you with administrative tasks, keep you organized, and can handle most of your business communication. Yes, there’s a learning curve involved for both of you, but better to do that so you can spend your time on the things that generate income for your business.

Keep the fun in summer, but don’t sacrifice your productivity either. If you’re organized and focused, you can most certainly have both. Now, I admit, being focused can’t come without a whole lot of motivation and that’s what I’ll be talking about next time.

So, how about you? How do you stay productive in the summer (or do you just chuck it all and wait for fall to roll back around)? Add your voice in the comment section below.