All signs point to summer: In the DC area, almost overnight, it went from cold and rainy to HOT and humid (So, naturally, the A/C in the family minivan goes out). Spring Insight’s picnic basket swag has been spotted all around town at various festivals. And I’m playing hooky on a Thursday to go white water rafting (Yep. You read that right.) with friends from out of town.
Yes, summer has a special way of reminding us entrepreneurs that we own our businesses—our businesses don’t own us.
Of course, in business, cruise control is not the same as set it and forget it. Keeping a business on track, while also having a life poses it’s own set of challenges. Devoted readers may remember a similar post I did around the holidays. If you’ve been as busy as I have the past five months, you’re probably ready for a refresher.
So, what is the best strategy for staying productive while (more or less) footloose and fancy-free this summer?
Plan your media calendar.
When I’m busier outside of work than usual, when my team is using more vacation time, and, especially, when I know my readers are less tuned in than they would be on a cool, rainy Wednesday in April, the first thing that takes a back seat is social media. At Spring Insight, we avoid this dip in productivity by being extra diligent during our planning meetings this time of year. We make sure to devote one hour at the beginning of each month to plotting out and scheduling our media calendar. We use the time to brainstorm topics for each week of the month along with any ideas or notes that come to mind. This way our copywriter can start drafting posts at her own pace and the work doesn’t have to cut into her all-important poolside naptime. Keep in mind that while you can always tweak the calendar later (Who knows what insights will come to me while I’m out battling the raging rapids?), having a clearly laid out plan helps keep you and your team on track. So, figure out what works best for you and stick to it.
Schedule social media posts in advance.
Just because your social media specialist wants to get away from her desk and enjoy some R&R at the lake house for a few days (assuming that it ever stops raining in Texas), doesn’t mean your tweets, Facebook promotions, and LinkedIn updates have to go on hiatus. And, no, I’m not suggesting you ask her to work during her vacation. There are a ton of reliable, easy-to-use resources for scheduling social media ahead of time: HootSuite is a social media dashboard (did I tell you how much I LOVE dashboards?); Sprout Social includes market research to back up their services; and if you don’t know about Buffer you are missing out on a great all around social media management tool. Remember to check back in on any advance posts though. Depending on how long in advance you schedule something, it may not make sense once the publication date rolls around, so it’s a good idea to put someone in charge of keeping tabs on the posts before they go live.
Plan to do some brainless work when you are feeling less focused.
Well, “brainless” is not exactly the right word. But we all categorize tasks as work that requires a lot of problem-solving ability or as work that is more standardized. Save as much of the routine stuff as you can for times when you know you will be checking out a bit mentally. For example, the Fourth of July is a Monday this year, so Friday, July 1 is probably not the best day to schedule that big strategy meeting for the launch of your new fall product line. Plan for the natural ebb and flow of work during the summer months.
Think about future directions.
Generally, when daily business operations slow a bit, it frees us up to think more about the big picture without the usual pressures. The first half of the year is nearing a close too, so it’s a good time to take stock of what’s going well and what could be improved. Are you using social media to your full advantage? Are there technology solutions out there that could make things run more smoothly for you across the board? Are there areas where your business would benefit from outsourcing? (Have you been neglecting your website or marketing during crunch time?) Non-crunch time is the perfect time to experiment with different partnerships and strategies. Why not encourage team members to use down time between big projects to research ideas that they think will make their jobs easier and ask them to bring them to the table for discussion? It’s never a bad idea to boost morale by seeking feedback and doling out some praise for a job well done. You’ll be surprised at what it does for productivity in the long run.
In the end, putting the business on cruise control and slowing down a bit in the summer months is not something to feel badly about. You have been working hard. It’s perfectly natural to feel like you and your business need to recharge. Take advantage of these slower months though and you’ll be feeling ready to put the petal to the metal before you see your first Back-to-School ad campaign.