For some, another week or two of vacation is still in the cards but, for many, summer holidays are already a memory. Yet, technically the middle of summer only just occurred at 5:10 p.m. on August 6th! So you still do have a few good weeks to experience that wonderful summertime lightheartedness. Even if you are hard back to work, find ways to celebrate and enjoy the unofficial last month of summer. Here are two dozen playful and serious suggestions for how to professionally get the most out of August, because August is a peach of a month to:
1.Take a few good deep breathes every day. When you return from your vacation to 200 emails and 26 voice mails, try this quickie de-stressing exercise, that you can do at your desk, right now. Complete six proper, deep breaths, inhaling through the nostrils. Remember it’s just as important to efficiently and completely exhale, too (through the mouth). This only takes about 45 seconds to do…so you can afford the time, even if you are up to your eyeballs in backlog…actually, you can’t afford not to! Most of the time we sit slightly slumped over, with our lungs a bit squished, taking in only a fraction of the air we really need to stay energized and alert for an entire day. Do this breathing exercise in the middle afternoon. Consider it your metaphoric “seventh inning stretch”! Do this as an alternative to grabbing for that mid-afternoon sugar fix or coffee buzz.
2. Scatter a few of those disposable cameras around the office. Ask your team to take impromptu pictures of colleagues throughout the day. Make a collage of those late summer workplace moments, for your team’s meeting rooms or other appropriate locations, and relive that August feeling all through the winter months ahead!
3. Take a REAL lunch break…a whole hour! Do something wild and wacky or interesting in that time…something totally unrelated to work. Go to a greeting card store and have a good rip snorting laugh at all the funny ones, perhaps even buying a few for the most appropriate people. Buy a half a dozen divine and decadent Belgian truffles. Take them to a beautiful nearby park, or other lovely setting, on a clear, blue sky day, and slowly devour each and every one of them…with your eyes closed, to really heighten your taste experience!
4. Be silly! Take your whole work team to see the 5:00 p.m. showing of Austin Powers Goldmember…or how about all attending an evening at a local comedy club? A team that laughs together sticks together!
5. Give yourself a V.I.P day. Instead of transit or driving to work, just this once…arrange for a limo to take you to work “in style”! Invite a nearby colleague to share in this experience if you’d like. Have a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice waiting in the car, along with a bagel and cream cheese, with some lovely fresh fruit as a finale. Tell the driver to take the scenic route to work…and go slow!
6. Actually set a luncheon date with that person you’ve been meaning to call…you know the person, the one to whom you keep saying, “We should get together for lunch one day.” Then keep the date! Making the date is the easy part…following through is harder. Our work and private lives really do work in direct proportion to the commitments we make and keep!
7. Heighten your mid-summertime joy as you travel to work. If you take transit, re-read one of your best loved books…one you haven’t read in years. If you drive in, pick your favourite Broadway show or movie soundtrack, and play it all the way in, from door-to-door, singing along as though you expect to be “discovered” at any moment!
8. Buy fresh flowers for your workstation, for each of the remaining weeks of August…or how about from now on?
9. Give your computer keyboard a thorough cleaning. What the heck…why not do your whole workstation, as well? As long as you’re cleaning, go through your computer files, too, and delete the junk that you will never read or need again.
10. Arrange an Ice Cream Day at work to celebrate a “Last Hurrah of Summer”. I recently gave a keynote address for a client’s summer meeting and was thoroughly impressed by their relatively cheap but charming way to “treat” and thank their staff. In the lobby of their on-site conference facility, this employer arranged for a free chest of ice cream flavours and cones, served up by a man in an old fashioned red and white stripped jacket and matching hat, while a Dixieland Band played on! The staff were delighted and refreshed. When I expressed how impressed I was, this same staff bragged their pride about working for such a terrific and thoughtful employer.
11. Declare a personal ban on whining, complaining and negative talk for the rest of the month. Keep the secret a colleague has asked you to keep. Refuse to listen to office gossip or fuel the company rumour mill. See what happens. You may wish to extend this ban to the rest of the year and beyond!
12. Get out of bed an hour earlier so that you can putter around at leisure for a change, before the regular bustle of your day begins. Do what you want with this magical hour. Enjoy the peace and quiet. Eat a real breakfast. Take the morning newspaper to your backyard swing or rocking chair and give that paper a proper read…while still in your robe and slippers! Don’t have a swing? Time to get one. I promise you you will never regret such a purchase!
13. Become a mentor to another. Seek a mentor for yourself. Sleuth out a person you admire. Take them to lunch and “pick their brain.”
14. Insist on at least one good laugh every day. At day’s end report-in to yourself or a loved one about the best funny moments of your day. If you can’t recall any…you’d better get out of bed and watch a late night sitcom!
15. Keep cool! Run cool water over your wrists and the inside of your elbows as a quickie refresher. Keep a clean spritzer container of water close by and give yourself a little spritz when you need one or treat yourself to a mini personal fan for your desk!
16. Join a professional networking group…or start one of your own! Community is valuable and important to your professional growth and wisdom.
17. Forgive yourself for that “terrible” mistake you made at work…probably a long time ago! And while you’re at it, forgive your colleague the blunder and fiasco they once created, as well. Holding grudges and catering to long term negative memories can easily taint and forever damage personal and organizational effectiveness and efficiency.
18. Have an ergonomist “check out” your work station. Make sure your station “fits” you properly…it can make a big difference to your physical health and daily stamina to get the job done well.
19. Get a cork board for your work station…not for memos about the next team meeting but rather for your personal favourite pictures of family and friends, sayings and comics, poems and jokes. Let it speak volumes about who you are!
20. Be peachy keen about working in August! In many locals, especially in North America, staff will have local access to fresh peaches…have a “peach of day” at work, eg. at breakfast or lunchtime, one day late in August, have team members bring in peach pies, peach cobblers, peach jam, peach shortcakes, peach ice cream, peach tarts…or just plain peaches…with real Devonshire Clotted Cream!
21. Order custom made fortune cookies for your team, with messages only they will understand. Make sure the fortunes reveal only “good” and sunny or funny fortunes!
22. Contemplate your career path. Ask yourself, “Where am I going? Where do I want to go? What are my career possibilities? What are my other possibilities? What can I do to move myself forward this very month?”
23. Plan or encourage your organization to book a series of autumn Lunch and Learn presentations, facilitated by a professional speaker, to inspire, motivate and re-energize staff who are saying goodbye to the tail end of summer and facing forward to a new “season” of work.
24. Plot for yourself (and your staff) your professional development strategy for the balance of 2002 and the first half of 2003. What in-house workshops and other professional development opportunities would you like to attend and/or create for your staff? Is this finally the year for starting an annual autumn or year end branch or divisional off-site conference? So many successful organizations do just that! Pull together an enthused internal conference committee. Take beginning action on your conference dates and location, now, and then book that perfect speaker or workshop facilitator to pull it all together, “before the snow flies”!
Go ahead, use the excuse of the lovely month of August–summer’s last hurrah–as your inspiration to implement at least one of these ideas…or implement one of your own that may have been inspired by this list. Good luck with your efforts–I’d love to hear about your positive results and perhaps “I’ll see you in September!”