No matter how old I get (or how old my children are) the beginning of summer still retains that school's-out feeling of impending freedom and leisure as well as the promise of travel, increased socializing, much anticipated beach reads, and no-holds-barred consumption of ice cream.
It’s also the season for recharging batteries at work, finding cool deep wells of inspiration that can only be sourced by slowing down, gazing on new vistas, relaxing certain rules and – gasp – doing “nothing.” As I’m not a big fan of quotation marks (one of my earliest mentors used to note that if you need quotation marks, you haven’t found the right word yet) the ones around this last word are significant. Summer is the perfect time to redefine what we mean by doing nothing and use this as a tool for growth.
Whether you are leading a team or a company, managing a solopreneur practice or embarking on a new professional challenge, I urge you to look at the three months ahead as an opportunity to mix things up, take advantage of longer days and a different pace, and create an opportunity for constructive naval gazing (with or without your actual navel showing – your choice!).
Across countries and industries, CEOs rate creativity as the #1 most important trait for all incoming employees. Yet researcher Kyung Hee Kim, author of The Creativity of Challenge, has shown that we are facing a dramatic “creativity crisis,” with creativity scores dropping significantly in younger generations.
- Psychology Today, August 2017 & Creativity Research Journal
You can do this in a couple of ways:
- Shift your schedule to align with the earth’s axis, using early morning hours for new contemplative or physical practices (I garden in the cool dawn moments) that nourish your soul and get your day off to a different kind of start.
- Create a reading list that introduces you to styles and ideas that are fresh, fun and not your typical fare. Try poetry (really)!
Sabine Sonnentag, professor of organizational psychology at the University of Mannheim, Germany, says "...disengaging from work when you are not at work makes us more resilient in the face of stress and more productive and engaged at work..."
- Emma M. Seppala, Ph.D., Psychology Today, August 2017
- Take your vacation – and that of your team – very very seriously. Commit to totally unplugging and stick to it. Detox from email, social media and any interruptions that get in the way of your focus on the moment, especially if that moment is for daydreaming. Create rules for this and communicate them to everyone.
- Eat fresh food. Every day. This helps you get in touch with your physical self, your surroundings, and is deeply satisfying. It gives you a sense of place, of time and can invigorate your entire system. Try it, you’ll like it!
- Play!! Create fun at work - think retreats, team sports, and social gatherings. At home, learn something new, or teach someone a new game. Play cards, charades or footsie. Dance. Look for ways to be exuberant.
- Be childlike – curious, open, unguarded, and barefoot.
- Literally, stop and smell the roses. Employ all of your senses to appreciate this gorgeous earth and bring that sense of gratitude and plenitude into every space you enter.
Work Fun, Works
"Workplace recreation is increasingly gaining popularity as a strategy for improving the well-being and performance of employees in the workplace."
I have certain annual rituals that help me with the techniques above. These include a blend of travel to new and familiar destinations; a less packed calendar of scheduled meetings and calls; intentionally leaving my phone behind when I leave the house (!); attending free or cheap cultural events; and a commitment to my clients that I will support them as they grapple with the anxiety of doing less so that they can ultimately achieve – and be – so much more.