The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you’re stuck inside behind a desk. It’s a fact of life that we need to work hard even when the weather makes us want to bolt outside. Just as we’re actually more productive during the bleakest months, our work output takes a dive during the warmest time of the year. Don’t let summer distractions stop you from getting things accomplished. Here’s how weather affects productivity in the summer and how to stay focused and productive at work even when you’d rather be on vacation.
If you’re like most Americans, you probably rarely go outside except for social occasions and the trips you make to or from your car. This can cause your body and mind to crave what they lack.
Set aside a half hour or more every day, or several times a week, that you’ll use to spend quality time outside. Whether it’s reading on a bench in the park or walking around your building, you should think of it like filling a quota that supports wellbeing and productivity. It may even help improve your work-life balance.
Being present and living in the moment has nothing to do with impulsiveness or spontaneity and everything to do with focus. When you’re truly present, you’re able to be so absorbed in what you’re doing that invasive thoughts about gorgeous skies can come and go without giving you pause.
Consider learning about mindfulness practices which have been shown to increase focus and decrease distractibility. Insight from meditation practices can also help you understand how weather affects productivity for you personally.
If you’ve never attempted any meditative techniques before, you can start by setting a timer for 10 minutes – or however long you’re comfortable with – and sitting in a quiet, comfortable location. Your position and whether your eyes are opened or closed doesn’t matter much. What’s important is that you take this time to let thoughts appear and simply note them without trying to comment on them or explore them. Many beginners will start by focusing on the breath and counting exhalations, starting over each time they notice themselves beginning to be lost in thought.
You’ll notice a difference even if you only do this a few times a week
We know it’s not feasible for everyone to change their working conditions, but if being nearer or farther from a window affects your susceptibility to being distracted, then it’s an accommodation you should ask for. Similarly, if working outside is ever possible for you, it’s worth trying since it may let you soak up the summer while remaining productive.
Smart employers understand how weather affects productivity, making them more likely to be accommodating, but they can’t help if you don’t ask. Knowing how to stay focused at work in the summer is informed by your understanding of how the environment influences you.
If you want to understand how to stay focused and productive at work in the summer, you need to appreciate the importance of sunlight. It’s not just Vitamin D – blue light is the key component of sunlight that makes it so much more invigorating and uplifting than the yellow or greenish glow of most artificial light.
If you can’t find time to spend or work outside, try using a sun lamp or other source of synthetic sunlight to help you with staying focused at work and remaining productive until you are able to enjoy the fresh air.
The fear of missing out (FOMO) also applies to summer distractions, and it’s one of the greatest contributors to distraction and anxiety in general. Few things make staying focused work harder than fantasizing about a sparkling river you know your friends are kayaking on. There are two ways to deal with this. The first is to spend some time in the evening planning a trip or event outside, even if it’s just a Saturday spent biking or picnicking. After all, you’re not really missing out if your own trip is coming up soon.
The other part of this tip is to reduce the time you spend on social media. The angst of summertime FOMO is compounded by the beautifully filtered, smiling selfies of friends lazing next to an Olympic-sized pool while you make copies of a report about reports. You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone.
Like with artificial sunlight, there are other outdoorsy elements you may be able to simulate well enough to stay productive even when you’re stuck inside. A simple desk fan can create the feeling of a gentle breeze on your face. Soothing sounds of nature delivered through earbuds can provide the tranquil, natural ambiance your mind is searching for.
The combination of workplace adjustments that work best will be unique to you, but the trick is to try out different methods and discover what’s most effective at giving you the sensation of being outside. The psychological effect that your environment fosters will also influence how easy it is for you to stay healthy at work.
Sure, we’d all like to wipe out distractions from our work life, but at the end of the day, the ability to be distracted is a good thing – you need to be flexible enough that you can suddenly shift from one task to another if necessary. Alternatively, if a beam of light from a break in the clouds catches your eye for a few moments, you’ve done no harm by taking in a little bit of what makes life beautiful. Simply endeavor to reduce distractions, not eliminate them.
Staying focused at work isn’t always easy, but mitigating possible disturbances to your work lends itself to better time management. Different techniques will be more or less effective for different people, so now that you’re armed with a few tips on how to stay focused at work in the summer, give each of them a try and discover for yourself how staying focused at work now can help you fully enjoy your time out in the sun later.