Seven Cures for Sagging Productivity Blues: The Summer Slump

“In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.” — Albert Camus, French writer.

Seven Cures for the Sagging Productivity Blues - the Dreaded Summer Slump

As the mercury begins to rise in earnest at the end of Q1, the American worker’s thoughts turn fondly to fun in the sun… and you know what that means. Soon, you’ll face one of the great banes of business performance: the dreaded summer slump (click to tweet). With upcoming vacations to serve as slow-downs, the season isn’t likely to serve as a shining beacon of productivity for your team.

Instead of agonizing about the inevitable decline ahead, think long-term. Sometimes you just need a break before you break. Often, by the time May rolls around, we’ve had it up to here with the bustle of post-holiday catch-up, juggling the new work that pours in during the first quarter, and simply wrapping up said quarter with decent numbers. Summer provides the time off you need to recharge your mental and emotional batteries, get some physical rest, and reconnect with family and friends.

Here are seven ways to cut a summer slump off at the pass:

  1. Take a long vacation. Americans still lag far behind the rest of the industrialized world in terms of vacation time; most Europeans get as long as a month or more to “go on holiday.” My brother Paul had *unlimited* vacation time when he worked for GE, and he certainly took advantage of it. He was able to take weeks of vacation at a time and still maintain his rankings and sales in his team. While you almost certainly won’t have that option, don’t leave vacation days on the table, as so many people do.
  1. Plan ahead. Well before your vacation time comes up, ask a few of your co-workers for help while you’re away and familiarize them with your projects. Update them as necessary. If you can get permission from your leader, find a partner who will cover your projects while you’re away in return for covering theirs during their own time off. Ask about other’s plans and get projects done in advance of them leaving. Make sure you and your leader stay on the same page regarding your vacation.
  1. Make your vacation a big deal. Make extravagant plans. Put the date on your calendar in bold red letters. Keep little reminders around, especially as the day approaches. Whether you’re going on a “staycation” at home or an expensive cruise, think of how much fun you’ll have! Don’t overdose on daydreaming, but do anticipate your happy time with friends and family, so you’ll elevate your mood and float right through the slump period with your productivity on high.
  1. Take care of yourself. Self-care is especially important during the days you’d rather stare out the window and daydream than sling code or write reports. Getting enough sleep, keeping your weight down, eating responsibly, exercising, and hydrating properly will help you stay so alert you’ll have no choice but to stay busy.
  1. Turn up the air conditioning or get a fan. Who wants to work where it’s hot and sticky? Hot weather can have nasty effects on the emotions, making people agitated, tired, and lackluster. Find ways to stay cool or convince the powers-that-be to keep the office cool (without making it uncomfortably frigid like it is in some hotels). If you’re one of the powers, don’t be an A/C miser. You’ll lose in productivity more than what you save in energy costs.
  1. Consider telecommuting. As long as you have the appropriate technology, why not work remotely occasionally if your company allows it? You might be more productive in familiar surroundings, because you don’t have to deal with the heat as often. You can start work early and end early to take advantage of that sunshine.
  1. Reward productivity. Whether you’re the leader or a team member, encourage your teammates and yourself to work harder with some sort of reward—free ice cream, lunch, Friday afternoons off, or whatever works for your group. The team can actually work together on this to keep each other happier.

Making It Happen

It may seem like tradition to let yourself lag during the summertime, but we Americans have a reputation for bucking tradition. Just accept the fact that summer’s on its way, and don’t let the old ways of thinking weigh you down. You really can have your cake and eat it too, when the cake stands for vacation fun and the eating represents high productivity.

© 2016 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (January 18, 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.





  1. Brenna Yaekle says:

    Great suggestions Laura! As a former Recreation professional, we were taught that the time leading up to and the time immediately after a planned event was just as important as the actual event. By focusing on a planned vacation we end up ‘extending’ that vacation to include the before weeks of preparation and the Facebook postings when we return. It is all about maximizing your vacation!!!

    • Laura Stack says:

      Great advice! I love the time after a vacation posting all the photos and smiling about the great times just had.

  2. Laura, what a great idea to take a long vacation! It is hard to do, sometimes, especially if you are the team leader. But we come back with more ideas, more energy and healthier, to boot!


  3. Shawn Lanphere says:

    Great suggestions Laura. But what if your company schedules mandatory retreats an meetings through the summer in such a way that a long (two weeks) vacation is near impossible. Any suggestions?

    • Laura Stack says:

      Find another job. 🙂 Only sort of kidding. If you schedule your vacations far enough in advance, buy the tickets, and notify your leadership, it’s not your fault if they schedule a meeting when you’ll happen to be gone.