For many of us, the summer is a slow period at the office. As many people leave the office for vacations and holidays, the pace of work slows down. It is easy to slow down and defer work to the fall. Don’t fall into that trap of “writing off” the summer as a lossed cause.
What’s the solution? Work on a summer project! It’s a great way to get ahead and stay excited during the summer. In addition to the immediate benefits, completing a summer project will get you ready for the fall. Without a good summer project, you may fall into the habit of browsing Facebook all day instead of accomplishing something you will be proud of at the end of the year.
What Makes A Good Summer Project?
In July, I’m going to be exploring the concept of a summer project in depth. Today’s post will introduce the concept to get you started. I have a summer project of my own – working on an ebook. As you consider what to work on, here are a few points to consider
- Learning. A good summer project gives you the chance to learn new skills such as improving your technical skills (e.g. finishing that Microsoft Excel course you started a while ago). For example, entrepreneur Neville Medhora set himself the challenge to learn Ruby on Rails in April 2015 – that could work as a summer project.
- Challenge. A good summer project represents a challenge and a break from the status quo – working through uncertainty is part of the experience.
- Fun/Satisfaction. Imagine yourself at the end of the experience – will you be happy for having completed it? This factor is closely related to the challenge factor.
- Social Connection. The summer project is a great time to connect with other people so look for a way to connect with other people (e.g. join an association or club related to your project: Meetup.com is one resource to explore)
- Duration. Design the project to be completed in approximately four to six weeks. The whole point of this exercise is to take advantage of the “slow summer months.”
- Bucket List Progress. Have you ever written a bucket list (i.e. a list of goals, activities, experiences etc that you want to have before you die)? If so, a summer project may be the perfect time to go for one of those ideas. Successfully completing a bucket list goal will give you greater confidence and happiness, which translates into better work results. (For inspiration – go watch the 2007 movie “The Bucket List“)
Armed with the above factors, you are ready to start designing a successful and satisfying summer project. Project managers – you finally have the chance to apply your professional skills to get ahead and get more out of life.
Brainstorm 10 Ideas For A Summer Project
Unless you already have a clear idea, I suggest coming up with 10 ideas. Coming up with 10 ideas, as a minimum, is an excellent mental ability to develop and refine. For inspiration and further instruction in becoming an idea machine, I refer you to The Ultimate Guide for Becoming an Idea Machine by James Altucher. I suggest considering several types of summer projects including learning skills, personal growth and business improvement. Over the rest of the month, I will cover a variety of summer projects to give you further inspiration and ideas. For now, let’s go over a high level series of steps to develop, execute and celebrate your summer project.
Planning Your Summer Project
Planning is a core ability that project managers bring to their work. Launching a successful summer project for yourself draws on this skill. As summer projects tend to be small in scope and budget, there’s no need to purchase Microsoft Project or other high power project management software. Instead, you can draft a few ideas in a notebook or on your computer. Here are a few guidelines to make an effective plan:
- Success. Picture yourself looking back on this project – what would bring a smile to your face? If your goal involves learning, you may want to receive a certificate of completion
- Resources. What are 3-5 resources (books, websites, courses etc) that you could use for your summer project? For example, if you are seeking to learn digital photography, you could sign up for a digital photography course from Lynda or Creative Live. For example, when Michael Hyatt set out to learn digital photography by buying the top 3 digital photography books on Amazon,
- Write the first few steps. If you are working on a 30 day project, a small amount of planning is all you need to get started. For example, write down the first three steps you will need to follow to get started (e.g. to learn a programming skill 1. Buy a book on the topic. 2. Read the book 3. Complete two programming exercises)
The above steps are intentionally written in a minimalist fashion. Excessive planning takes time away from execution, which we will cover next.
Execute Your Summer Project
Getting down to work and actual activity is where the fun and benefits of your summer project really start. Use the following tips to keep your summer project on track. Please share additional execution ideas in the comments section of this post.
- Experiment and make mistakes. The learning experience of a good summer project is bound to make you uncomfortable. The possibility of failure makes success taste that much sweeter.
- Seek feedback from an expert. Feedback is a powerful tool to improve your performance. In this context, an expert is somebody who possess the knowledge or skills you are working to develop (e.g. I learned the basics of dragon boat racing from a coach who had competed at the national level in June 2015).
- Reflect on progress at the halfway point. Stopping to reflect on your progress is a key part of execution. Take a few minutes to review your definition of success from above (e.g. if you are learning Excel programming, have you actually completed a working prototype?)
As you work through your summer project, take note of your feelings and experiences. For example, you may decide to use The 5 Minute Journal to make a few brief notes each day about your progress. Self-understanding is essential to becoming a better leader and reaching your goals at work. Reflecting on a summer project is a safe and easy way to improve your self understanding.
Celebrate Your Summer Project
Congratulations! You have come to the end of your summer project. That’s a great feeling! Before you immediately start working on your next idea, take some time to celebrate what you have achieved.
- Celebrate with friends and family. The summer is a great time to relax in a restaurant or host a dinner party – why not celebrate completing a summer project at the same time? Earlier in the year, I celebrated when I earned the Project Management Professional certification (see: 5 Lessons Learned From Becoming A PMP).
- Consider buying a reward for yourself. Nothing says “well done” like receiving a reward. If you have completed in a race or some other athletic activity, you may have a t-shirt or medal. Otherwise, I suggest treating yourself to a book (comment on this post if you want suggestions!), a good bottle of wine or something else that you enjoy.
Celebrating your success has practical benefits. For example, research from Catalyst found that, “publicly celebrating and acknowledging successes has more impact on women’s compensation, career advancement, and satisfaction than directly negotiating for higher compensation,” according to BC Business.
Coming Up on July 14th:
Designing a summer project at your office. There are plenty of ways to improve your organization and your department. Learn how you can set yourself apart from everyone else in your organization by running a summer project.
Get The Friday 5 Email Newsletter
Productivity Tips, Resources & Hacks Delivered Every Friday!