Nina Spencer

50 ways to make the most of the last of summer…even if you are back-to-work!

People have been talking about "vacations" since the word (originally from the Olde English spelling, "vacacioun") made its debut in 1395 in the famed Canterbury Tales--this, according to the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology. Its original meaning..."rest and freedom from any activity". Funny how some concepts never change, even if the spellings do. Although your vacation, and rest and freedom from all activity, is probably behind you now, rejoice! There are still four weeks of official summer to celebrate!

I subscribe to the philosophy: once...an incident, twice...a trend, thrice a pattern. Both in August 2002 and 2003 I wrote "Working Wisdoms" on how to make fun of the remains of summer. Last week, coincidentally, I gave two CBC radio interviews (to different Canadian cities), on how to make the best of the last of summer, even if your vacation is a done deal. I believe in riding that good ole horse in the direction it's going, so here is my August 2004 Working Wisdom (establishing an official August Working Wisdom pattern), with more suggestions on how to treat yourself (and/or others), even if you are back-to-work:

  1. subscribe to that magazine (business or personal) you've always fancied
  2. clear your wardrobe of old clothes; keep only those that make you look marvelous
  3. reread your most favourite book of all time (even if you must to do it in bits and pieces while riding transit)
  4. buy summertime flowers for your desk every week from now until the end of official summer
  5. take your team to a local comedy club; you'll be laughing together for days
  6. listen to the audio version of that business book you've been meaning to read but can't find the time
  7. visit a toy store on your lunch hour and trip down memory lane (you might even find some gizmo that will reduce workplace stress or add tasteful humour to the workplace!)
  8. reorganize just one filing cabinet (promising to do the whole lot might make you end up doing none; commit to one and see how it goes)
  9. purchase beautiful stamps for all your letters (rather than the boring regular ones); buy them in bulk so that you're not always running out!
  10. help everyone at your house get a fantastic night's sleep by tossing every old pillow; back-fill with lovely fluffy ones
  11. buy a strawberry milkshake from the ice cream truck right outside your workplace (it you're lucky enough to have one there) on your next lunch hour; linger a bit and pretend that summer has just begun
  12. play soundtracks from your favourite movies or shows on the way to and from work
  13. acknowledge something you've been dying to do, then take first steps to doing it
  14. arrange a team luncheon at a restaurant with a fabulous view
  15. stock your desk with day-to-day supplies, so that it's all there when you need it
  16. visit a local historical site, or take a walking tour of the section of town/city close by your work; see what fits into your lunch hour
  17. declare a whine free/no bellyaching workday for yourself--no matter what
  18. list colleagues' and special/favourite clients' birthdays; give them all surprise calls on their special days
  19. buy a stash of thank-you cards so that every time you'd like to go beyond a verbal "thank-you" you can, immediately (because you have all those stamps on hand, too, remember?)
  20. buy a bag of your favourite candies or chocolates; place them in a bowl by your desk for you and your colleagues to enjoy
  21. visit your city's finest public art gallery or museum
  22. beat your fear of public speaking; join Toastmasters (or start a workplace chapter of your own)
  23. be a mentor/get a mentor
  24. go to a fancy breakfast with your teammates at a nearby, quality hotel and see how workplace energy is enhanced for the rest of the day
  25. call your best friend that's moved far away
  26. request your favourite "oldies" song from your local "oldies" station; ask them to play if for you on your way in to work
  27. take an assertive communications workshop; encourage your workplace to bring one in-house (everyone could probably do better at, or be more consistent with, assertive communications...especially those aggressive people!)
  28. if you work near a body of water, eg. downtown Toronto, have a liquid lunch by brown bagging it as you take a round trip ferry ride of the Toronto Islands--can be done in about an hour!
  29. stock-up on batteries for everything from radios to flashlight and remote controls
  30. list 10 things (within your power) which would make you happier at work; then make your list happen
  31. list the top 10 best things that have ever happened to you at work
  32. list the top 10 worst things that have ever happened to you at work; then tear that list into tiny pieces and throw it away!
  33. treat your car to a premium car wash
  34. buy a quick shine kit and shine your shoes daily
  35. buy a quick pick lottery ticket
  36. drive by your old house and marvel at how far you've come
  37. put spare change in a jar; see how fast it adds up; one year my spare change paid for a return ticket to Europe!
  38. declare, "I don't do windows and I don't pump gas!"--treat yourself to a full service fill-up (despite the recent rise in prices) at your local gas station
  39. watch the opening of the movie, "Love Actually" and then go to the airport and watch for yourself; or surprise someone you love by meeting them at the arrival gate, as they wearily return from a business trip, not expecting a pick up (flowers in hand, regardless of gender)
  40. test drive the car you want to buy next time (even if your "next time" is years off!)
  41. leave work early on the day before the long weekend (legitimately, of course!)
  42. buy a back support for your office chair--get one for your car seat, too (might as well sit in grid lock in comfort!)
  43. energize your workday afternoon with an exotic, freshly squeezed fruit drink
  44. buy a home foot massage/spa...and use it!
  45. befriend the "new hire"
  46. start an "Oprah" style business book club...with your teammates or work colleagues
  47. if you really do want to meet that person for lunch one day, stop saying, "We must get together for lunch one day", and actually make a date
  48. organize a goofy "team picture"; get it framed with the caption, "The Way We Were in the Summer of '04"
  49. plan a series of autumn Lunch and Learn presentations, and/or in-house workshops, as a way to say "Welcome Back!" to a new work season
  50. last but not least--and as it has appeared in my August 2002 and 2003 Working Wisdoms"...arrange a workplace Ice Cream Day to celebrate the "Last Hurrah of Summer". Two years ago, at the end of summer, I delivered a keynote address for a client's management conference and was thoroughly impressed by their charming way to "treat" and thank employees for their hard work during the "hold the fort down" days of summer. In the lobby of their building, this employer arranged a free chest of ice creams flavours and cones, served by a man in an old fashioned red and white stripped jacket with matching hat, while a Dixieland Band played on! The employees were delighted and refreshed. When I expressed how impressed I was, they bragged about working for such a terrific and thoughtful employer and boasted that they are honoured with this event every year!

Whether it's your summer "vacacioun" or vacation...it's all in the fun you make of it, and how you strrrrretch it out! It ain't over 'til it's over...and summer is not over until September 21st; so enjoy the rest of yours...even if you are back-to-work.