Summer is a favorite season for many, particularly those with office jobs who can look forward to some vacation time off, but not always for the freelancer, who has to keep hustling when others are settling down to chill. Summer is especially hard on those who have to stay computer-bound to get work done while others are out enjoying blue skies and beach time. This can often result in difficulty staying focused and getting work done, as well as a slump in creativity. Here are some tips to overcome the creativity slump that can happen in summer:
1. Take More Breaks. The research continues to show that taking time away from work, in small breaks (the ideal being 17 minute breaks after approximately 52 minutes of work), is proven to improve your productivity. So don’t play the martyr and work until your eyes are burning and your body crimped into a mass of pain while carefree summer-goers meander past your window. Take more breaks. And if you can, get outside when you do so.
2. Reward yourself. If you’ve got to work when everyone else is playing, consider rewarding yourself after your work is done, or even during. Julia Park Tracey, author and freelance writer gives herself summer-like rewards. ”Coffee milkshakes are a nice summer treat. Enjoying the fruits of summer—watermelon, cherries—while I work, and working barefoot all help me feel like I’m winning instead of losing.”
Rachel Kramer Bussel, a freelance writer in New Jersey, sometimes lets “peer pressure” win over deadline pressure. “Recently, a new friend spontaneously invited me to the beach…because it was the weekend and I sort of felt like a loser choosing to stay in on a sunny day, I went.”
3. Rise Early. Lots of freelancers take advantage of the early hours to get work done, particularly those with kids, which buys you time in the second half of the day to enjoy your summer. Northern California freelance writer Amy McElroy has shifted to this strategy this summer. “Usually when my kids get out of school, my writing hits a dead zone. This year, instead of sleeping in I’ve been writing on the morning. Then if I don’t have a major deadline looming, I’ll schedule something mid-day, with or without my teenagers, in the afternoon to enjoy the summer sun, once or twice a week: a trip to the pool or the beach. It’s been a great balance.”
4. Summer Themed Work. Be creative in your pitches—pitch summer-timely ideas that will purposely take you outside if possible, rather than brooding in your office. Or, like freelance writer Julie Schweitert Collazo, mother of three children five and under, take advantage of where you live as material for work. She says, “Since I live in New York City, I’m fortunate to always be able to turn an outing into research, so I feel like I’m winning at double duty and not feeling chained to my computer.”
5. Working Dates. One of the best ways to capitalize on getting work done without feeling too summer deprived, is to set “work dates” with fellow freelancers. One of my good friends has several telecommute days from her Stanford job, and we’ll meet at a local café and work. In between work we have each other to chat with, which makes it feel like a get together, too.
6. Move it. Freelance writer and author Linzee McCray, of Iowa, moves her “office”—her laptop—to a spot in her screened porch for a change in scenery. “Even in winter I gravitate toward the sunniest spot in the house while I write, which isn’t my desk in my study but a chair in my family room. Rather than being distracting, it keeps me awake and alert.”
7. Face Facts. At the end of the day, sometimes the best thing you can do in the summer is be an adult about the reality of working. Dahna Chandler takes this more practical approach. “The rent is due and, since I’d rather not enjoy this weather by living outdoors in it, I think I’ll just keep working. That way, I’ll earn the right to languish next year.”
8. Shut the Curtains. Lastly, remember that what you can’t see, won’t distract you. Miami-based freelance writer Jen Karetnick chooses to throw herself into her work. “Every day I tell myself I am going to spend at least an hour enjoying the warm bath that is my pool, because that’s what it’s there for, right? And then it’s 7 p.m. and I’ve spent 12 solid hours at my computer.