How to be Productive at Work (When Nobody Else is There)

4 minute read

If you make major headway at work, but your boss isn’t there to witness it… will you have crushed it any less?

You walking into the office after reading this article

It’s summer, y’all. Which means, at one point or another, you may find yourself part of a skeleton crew of team members — with many of the people you typically work with (your supervisor, or favorite lunch buddy) conspicuously absent. And by conspicuously absent, we mean actively posting every gorgeous moment of their tropical island vacation with the sole motivation of making you jealous.

Beach envy aside, summer sometimes means you can’t seem to accomplish as much, because your key collaborators — or approval-providers up the chain of command — are OOO. Depending on your industry, clients may be vacationing too, so you may see workload take a dip as well. And while this may sound like a great thing (hello, relaxing work days!) the paradox remains that too much free time can make it hard to focus on the tasks you really do need to do. Not to mention, a little free time may be just the opportunity you need to make a crucial step forward in your career — and that’s nothing to squander.

Here are four ideas to keep you engaged, inspired and productive at work during the lazy (for some!) days of summer:

Idea #1: Achieve Inbox Zero

Imagine the peace of an empty inbox.

Productivity experts agree: a de-cluttered email inbox is a happy inbox. Maybe there’s something subconsciously depressing about seeing that you have 10,781 emails in your inbox every time you open up Gmail. Or maybe it’s not the number itself, but just the sheer messiness of that stew of unorganized communications you’ve amassed over the years. But who has the time to tidy up that vat of words? You, while everyone else is on vacation! This blog has some great pointers on how to carve down your inbox totals, leaving you with more mental clarity for the rest of your daily tasks.

Idea #2: Set a resolution

Actual footage of a poorly-timed resolution

We all know it, but nobody says it: January is a terrible time to make a resolution. We’re in a post-holiday fog, experiencing deep regret about the number of holiday cookies we’ve consumed, and wondering why we ever thought staying with our in-laws for more than three days was a “great” idea. Also, it’s cold, and that makes us grumpy, and grumpiness leads to a misguided, if well-meaning, manner of resolve.

But in summer, everything’s fresh, sunny, warm and open to new possibilities — especially at work. Take some time to take in your surroundings and see where you’d like to improve, career-wise. Then, map out a plan to make it happen. You may be surprised by how it energizes your entire workday!

Idea #3: Learn something new

Make the most of your summer hours.

The Internet abounds in free educational opportunities, and there’s always a new tutorial, webinar, or online class you can take to sharpen up your skills, move up in the career ladder, or shift laterally and expand your capabilities. So carve in some time to learn something new, and apply that experience to everything you do!

Idea #4: Show your stuff

Get cooking on that idea you’ve been working on.

You know that one white paper that you’ve totally been meaning to write — the one that really showcases your particular expertise — but just never could manage to scrape together the time for? Or how about that office process cheat sheet that you just know could make everybody’s life easier, if only you’d sit down and finally type it out? Odds are, there’s something that you know you can do that could make a real difference for your company, but you just haven’t gotten to it yet. Well, this summertime lull in incoming emails (besides those pesky auto-replies) could be just the moment you’ve been waiting for! Dive deep into your pet project. It’s time to show your stuff!

Idea #5: At least clean your desk

We know it’s daunting. Do it anyway.

Even if you don’t manage to do any of the above, clean off your desk. It’s the physical equivalent of reaching Inbox Zero, with the added bonus of “everyone can see it.” If you really want to go wild, add a new office plant. When they finally do get back to work, your newly tanned coworkers will be jealous of your pristine workplace — and who knows, maybe Lana will Instagram it. #DeskEnvy.

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