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Dream Career Toolkit: 5 Ways to Have a Restful and Productive Summer

Who doesn't love summer? It’s lazy, relaxing, hot, sun-filled.

And, if you’re an ambition person with big goals, well… It’s lazy, hot and sun-filled!


If you’re like a lot of people, you can’t wait for summer, but mid-way through you wonder where the time has gone. You realize you haven’t gotten much done!

Well, like the proverbial unfulfilled new year’s resolution, it’s time to turn this paradigm on it’s head. There is a way to enjoy your play and get your work done too! (Book a guest star in July, anyone?)

Read on for the top 5 ways to have a restful and productive summer.

Give yourself that time to relax.

Summer is great because many of us finally relax. Finally. It’s funny though, how often we feel bad about doing so! We finally go on vacation, take several long weekends, leave work early, yet we feel guilty about it.

The key to having a restful summer is to, well, rest. Seriously. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about “Sharpening the Saw.” A dull saw takes three times as long to cut wood.

So, book that vacation, take that long weekend, leave work early. And, when you do these things, turn off your phone and email. You haven’t left work early if you are still putting out fires over the phone. Surprisingly, many of those fires will put themselves out if you give them some space.

Now, part of not feeling guilty is to communicate what you are doing with those who need to know. You can explain that you are going on vacation. Or, you can keep it simple and just say you’ve got to leave work early for a personal matter. Whatever you feel comfortable with. You don’t need to justify taking the time you need to restore yourself so that you are fresh for everything demanded of you.

Boundary your time—both work and play.

The next key to a relaxing and productive summer is to boundary both. Why do lazy days turn into lazy weeks and lazy months? Because you didn't boundary them. Funny how they aren't really that relaxing when they drag on and on, huh?

What do I mean by boundary? Simply put, set a start time and an end time. And, honor them. If you are going to leave work early, set your start time, say 9am, and your end time, say 4pm. You’ll be surprised how much you get done in the time you've allotted yourself. You will certainly get everything you really need to get done all buttoned up.

If you are taking a day off, stop working the night before, and start the day after. Seriously. Let phone calls go to voicemail. Keep your computer in its case. Put your phone away where you can’t see it.

If you are concerned you’ll miss something important, set an email auto-reply that tells people when you’ll be back. Record a new voicemail informing callers you’re out of the office and will return calls on a given day. The same technology that keeps us tied to our phones and computers can free us up!

Set a new goal.

This may seem obvious, but if you want to get something accomplished this summer, set a goal for it! Now, I do tons of coaching on goal-setting. The key to the summer goal is that you've got to approach it balancing all of the things we've talked about above. Incorporate your vacation, your time off, into your goal. For example: “My goal is to sell my hour-long television pitch and have a fabulous two-week vacation with my family before August 31st.”

Now, when it’s that specific, things start to clarify themselves. With this goal, you know you need to time both taking out your pitch (pitching season usually starts July 1st) and your vacation so that you can accomplish both. You might need to take your vacation before July 1st. Or, delay going out with your pitch until later in July to accommodate your vacation.

All of this is manageable, but not without some planning. Setting your goal gets you immediately clear what you are committed to and then helps you define your priorities. This might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many of the best-laid plans collide because people are not clear about their goals and therefore their priorities.

Note the time of year, but look for ways to turn the conventional wisdom on its head.

There’s an axiom that everything is dead in late July and all of August. (Not to mention from the second week of November through the end of December.)

Sure, a lot of people take vacations in the summer. But, they don’t all leave town at exactly the same time for 6 weeks. Really. They don’t.

I have personally heard the blow-by-blow story of a producer who make a million dollar script sale on December 23rd. (You've seen the movie, at one time the most expensive movie ever made.)

I've personally sold a pitch in August. I've signed A-list talent to a project in August. I've signed an Oscar-nominee to another project in July. I've met with an Oscar-nominated mentor in July. You get my point.

Just as some people go away on vacation, some people become available as things slow down. You can’t win if you don’t play. If you take your ball and go home because you think no one’s on the court, you really won’t win. Stay on the court. Keep playing.

And lastly…

Make summer work for you.

There are some things that are really cool to do in the summer, things that just don���t rank in January. Sitting by the pool answering email, anyone?

The key is to incorporate those things into the action steps you are taking toward your goal. Need to meet a colleague? Plan a hike or walk instead of a coffee or lunch. Take your office outside to the back yard or the local park by bringing your laptop. Sure, you might not be able to be online at the park, but you can solve that problem by saving up the offline tasks (writing, brainstorming, running lines, etc.) and doing those stretched out on the grass or with your feet in the sand.

I find it good for the soul to incorporate uniquely “summer” goals into my week. Since the days are longer and warmer, I have no problem going for a run even when I finish my day at 7 or 7:30p. So, I make it a goal to exercise 4 or 5 times a week instead of my usual 2 or 3 in the winter. I feel better, I get outside enjoying the fresh air, and I value my summer even more.

And that’s the key, isn't it? Finding how to incorporate what you love about summer into what you love about your work, your family and your friends. Now, that’s a goal worth working toward.

Shawn Tolleson is a career coach working with screenwriters and other entertainment industry professionals. She gives you the practical tools you need to accomplish your dream career. Check out blogs, videos, classes and more at!

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