How to Conquer Your To-Do List While Wishing You Were at the Beach

Every year when summer finally rolls around, I find myself struggling to establish some sort of balance between soaking up some sun, and getting things done. After a long, dark winter, I feel it’s only fair to allow ourselves to get out to enjoy a sunny day! Nonetheless, letting all the work pile up because you played hooky to catch some rays is not necessarily the smartest choice either. So what is one to do?

Although I am in no way an expert on time management, and yes, I am guilty of sneaking off to the beach on a work day, I have found a few strategies to help maintain focus during the summer months.

Here are a few ideas that have helped me, and may hopefully be of help to you too!

1. Create a morning ritual.

Getting into the habit of doing something every single morning that you enjoy, and puts your mind at ease is a great way to set the tone for your day. Sure, you may argue you’d rather use that time to sleep, but I would argue you won’t miss 15 extra minutes of sleep. You don’t need a lot of time to engage in an activity that can really help build focus right from the time you wake up. One thing I like to do is read for 15 minutes, uninterrupted, before I start work for the day. If you can get out of bed even earlier, getting some fresh air is the ultimate morning energizer. Go for a walk, a run, or do some yoga- it’s so important to move your body, especially if your work puts you in a sedentary position for most of the day.

2. Set goals, big and small.

I am a HUGE fan of making lists. I know lists don’t work for everyone, but I find it such a good strategy to help keep track of what needs to get done -today, tomorrow, next week…next year. Creating lists that differentiate between short and long-term goals are helpful in seeing what tasks are urgent, and which are part of a bigger-picture deadlines. I like to start each work day with a new list outlining what needs to be accomplished that day. I always make a list of weekly tasks, and monthly tasks. Be sure to keep your lists realistic and achievable though so that you find yourself frequently checking off items on your list, which let’s admit, is always a nice feeling!

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3. Keep your mind active.

Depending on the type of work you do, try to keep your mind engaged, especially while performing repetitive or monotonous tasks. To help keep your mind from wandering, or even drifting off into dreamland, try plugging in (if possible) to a podcast, audiobook, or radio show. Tasks that mostly involve manual dexterity, and don’t require too much critical thought, can sometimes be a trap for losing focus, so listening to something in the background while you work can help keep your attention in top form. I always listen to podcasts while doing repetitive tasks at my workbench like filing, sanding, and polishing.

4. Use a timer.

On days that I really struggle to focus, I set a timer (usually 45-60 minutes), and work during that time with all distractions out of reach. I put my phone away, disengage from social media, and concentrate only on whatever task is at hand. When the timer goes off, I allow myself a short break, and then start the timer again for another round. 

5. Take your breaks outside.

If possible, take your lunch break outdoors. Sneak in a quick stroll, or work on your tan! Do whatever you need to do to see the sun for a few minutes during the day. Maybe even schedule an outdoor meeting! You’ll feel so much more refreshed when you return to your work, and you can maybe even alleviate some of your FOMO triggered by Instagram snaps of your pals on vacation.

6. Give yourself a day-pass (or two…or three)

Summer lasts only a few months per year, so heck with it, take a break. It’s so important to take a step back from your work every now and then. There’s no point to painfully force yourself to attempt to get things done when your mind is burnt out; you won’t accomplish anything beyond wasting your own time. Taking a day or two off will allow you to return to your work feeling more inspired and energized, and miraculously stoked about making your next to-do list ;)