By Jalene Case
Summer feels like it races by at twice the speed compared to the other seasons. We fill the long summer days with as much fun as possible while trying not to fall behind on our workload, but this can leave us feeling pressed for time and exhausted. How do we revive ourselves so we can enjoy our fun and still bring our best selves to work?
This summer, I thought that combining both work and fun into three weeks on the road would be a brilliant idea. It wasn’t. The long drives left me more tired than I expected, which resulted in a less-than-optimal energy level for my work. By the time I got home, I was wiped out with no scheduled time to recharge for the full workload ahead.
Rejuvenation took conscious effort. But through this I learned techniques to help myself before I melt into a puddle of unproductive, uninspired, unhappy goo.
Here are the “summer squeeze strategies” I used:
Did your parents punish you as a child by “grounding” you? Mine did. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it goes something like this. Parent: You are grounded for the weekend. You can’t go anywhere or do anything with your friends.
That discipline method came to mind recently when I felt depleted because I had overly scheduled my life with fun and work. In a flash of insight I realized, I need to ground myself!
When I shared this insight with my adult son he wisely pointed out that grounding helps the kid who is spinning out of control and needs a break. Spot on.
Ground yourself for the amount of time that feels right for you. Let go of the urge to cram more into your summer experience and instead make time to totally chill out. I grounded myself for a whole day and did what I wanted all day long. I didn’t work or take calls; I didn’t let others have a say in how I spent my time. It was divine. The next workday, I felt energized and ready to take on the world!
Take advantage of the space you create through “grounding” yourself to practice self-awareness, which is the foundation of emotional intelligence (EQ). When we are continually busy, whether for work or fun, it’s tough to recognize how we’re feeling. If we can’t tune into how we’re feeling, we can’t practice the next step of EQ, which is self-regulation. A basic version of self-awareness and regulation might look something like this:
- I notice how I’m feeling by pausing and naming the feeling. Example: I feel drained.
- I consider what I might do to help myself. Example: I will cancel my plans this evening so I can go to bed early.
Sometimes the first step in that process is the hardest. The cool thing about EQ is that it’s a skill we can develop. To practice naming your feelings, set an alarm on your phone three times a day to ask yourself, How am I feeling? Tune in, name it, and silently answer to yourself.
Create & Think
With so many people taking vacation time during the summer, your office can feel a little more open and often projects slow a bit. Use that space for creativity. I suggest the wild writing technique offered by Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind to increase clarity on a topic. This method bypasses our inner critic so we tap into what I like to think of as our inner operating system. A surprising perspective emerges every time I do it.
Wild writing rules:
- Think of a subject you want to explore. For example: that new project idea you have or a problem you’ve been trying to solve.
- With that subject in mind, begin writing by using a prompt such as, I know or I remember.
- Write for 10-minutes and do not stop writing. If you don’t know what to write, write anything you want until a shift happens. For example, write: “I don’t know what to write” as many times as it takes. Something new will come.
- Do not go back and correct anything. Leave the misspellings and punctuation errors.
- Go for the jugular. Know that you can burn it later. Write what you truly feel and think!
- You will actually use two writing prompts. For the first 10 minutes, start with I know or I remember. Take a break and shake out your hand. Then for the second 10 minutes, start with I don’t know or I don’t remember.
Try these three tactics to balance work and fun this summer. If you try any of these techniques out, I would love to hear about them. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.