Summer is my favorite time of the year. The weather is warm, the days are long, and people just seem to be in a better mood overall. The rules people live by during the rest of the year seem to be more flexible during the summer months: You allow yourself to eat ice cream, play hooky and stay up past your normal bedtime more when the weather's nice. For entrepreneurs, summer can also be a great time to recharge your batteries.
Last summer, I took an extended break for a milestone birthday, but you don't have to wait for a big occasion or until you get completely burned out to take advantage of the summer months. There are lots of great ways to shake up your routine and boost your energy; one is to take a minivacation (every business owner should consider taking one before the weather cools down). If you can get away, here are some ideas for your day of R&R:
- If you live in a town with a professional, minor league or even little league sports team, take an afternoon off and catch a ball game. Nothing says summer like sitting in the stands with your sunscreen, shades and snacks, wearing your team's colors and cheering from the sidelines. In fact, invite a client or prospect to join you. The same people who don't have time to talk or squeeze in a meeting with you during the budget season may now be looking for a way to take a quick summer break. It's a great way to spend quality time with people on a gorgeous afternoon--and it won't require much arm twisting. It's also a memorable way to get to know new employees or star summer interns you want to recruit for permanent positions.
- Attend an outdoor concert or event. Every town I've ever lived in has a festival, street fair, concert or food event during the summer. It's a great way to enjoy your backyard--kind of like being a tourist at home. Call a friend or colleague--they'll love an excuse to join you and catch up. Most companies have holiday parties, but being able to invite people from work and their families to an event that everyone finds entertaining is another way to differentiate your company culture. You might also want to throw a picnic or barbecue as part of the outing, and take a picture of the team and send copies to everyone in the group. It's another reminder of what makes your organization unique.
- Find a trail, and take a hike (or a bike ride). Bring a picnic, camera, good book, iPod, client, colleague and/or friend. If you prefer an urban setting, go to a park in town instead. It's an easy escape--all you have to do is decide when and where. I have one client whom I only meet outside when the weather's good. Neither of us gets as much exercise as we'd like, so instead of sitting in a conference room to discuss strategy and plans, we walk along the river and talk. The change in scenery does wonders to get the creative juices going in new and different ways.
- Form a softball, bowling or volleyball team. Lots of alumni groups, chambers of commerce and trade associations have regular seasons, so see if they're looking for other teams to add to the mix. It's a fun way to get to know your colleagues better, and it builds camaraderie and spirit in the group. On game days, people can wear their company logo shirts to the office, which always spices up conversation in the hallways or at lunch between people who might not otherwise connect.
- Why wait for out-of-town visitors? Spend and afternoon with a client, prospect or colleague you'd like to know better at a local museum, amusement park or driving range. Sometimes a change of venue and activity is just the right environment for your next big idea to surface. People will find connections they didn't ever know existed when they have downtime to chat on a more personal level. Agendas are important for meetings around the conference table, but sometimes it's the open spaces that generate the most productive conversations.
So what are you waiting for? If you're looking for permission, you've got it. If you need something to celebrate, you'll find a million great things around you if you only stop to think--choose one to be grateful for today. If you don't see anything on this list that looks fun to you, take some time to come up with your own ideas, but don't let the summer pass you by without taking a break and recharging your batteries. You owe it to yourself, your customers and your business.