Bryant Park late Apr 2009 - 21 by Ed YourdonHere in the Northern Hemisphere, it seems like the summer is just flying by. A month has passed since the longest day of the year and the heat doesn’t look like it will ease up anytime soon. It’s been easy to forget the grind and just sit back to partake in some much-needed downtime.

As I mentioned last year, you have to decide for yourself when it’s okay to walk away and not feel guilty about it. We all have busy lives and hectic schedules on and off throughout the year. So why not enjoy a little sunshine?

The only problem is deciding when it’s a good time to get back to work. As adults, we know the work doesn’t stop just because school is out. If we want to find long-term success in our careers, we have to be consistent (and persistent) in our desire to be the best. It’s not easy, but it is an ever-evolving process.

So how do you go about keeping your nose to the grindstone while enjoying the fruits of your labor in the summer months? By learning the art of give and take. Here’s a quick list of a few tactics I’m taking advantage of this summer.

1) Read at least 3 books by summer’s end

Choose 1 nonfiction, 1 fiction and 1 business-related book to read this summer. You can shoot for more titles, but to avoid a feeling of obligation, I recommend only 3. I’m a history and culture geek, so my nonfiction book will be educational, but also feed my sense of wonder (currently in my tote: Everything You Wanted To Know About Indians, But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer).

For fiction, I’ll probably read the new Leverage novel, and for business, I haven’t quite decided yet. I may ask around for recommendations or simply browse the business section of my local library to see what I might find. No matter what, the important thing is I’ve given myself an achievable goal that allows for (personal and professional) growth and relaxation.

2) Attend a networking event

Young entrepreneurs tend to rely so much on online marketing and social media connections to get the word out about their businesses that they ignore the value of face-to-face networking. Thankfully, local and regional business communities hold events all year round. That, along with Meetup groups and SBA seminars, in-person networking doesn’t have to be too difficult to jump back into.

I know what you’re thinking: “But what if I’m an introvert and real world networking makes me uncomfortable?” Trust me, I understand. I too am an introvert living in an extrovert’s world. But that’s when you can add the popular title Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain to your summer reading list, or attend a business seminar instead that offers a mini-networking event after the class ends. Also, a seminar/networking event will guarantee that attendance will be small, but the attendees are there to network, not just schmooze and flirt.

3) Take a road trip to somewhere you’ve never been

I know it seems like I’m advocating sloth or carelessness, but I assure you it’s the exact opposite. When I planned my recent road trip to South Bend, IN, for a showcase featuring one of my favorite entertainers, it gave me something to look forward to that wouldn’t involve a great deal of money or time to fully enjoy.

I also decided to make a full day of it. I hopped in my car and saw a part of my country I’ve never seen before (love doing that!), visited the Studebaker National Museum, ate at a lovely New Orleans-inspired cafe, then listened to the Hardcore Legend share stories of his career before heading back home.

Studebaker Brothers wagon - Where it all began Representing Studebaker in the 1930s Capturing the luxury of the 30s and 40s Studebaker Woody - 1947 Champion Deluxe Station Wagon Studebaker 1957 Golden Hawk 400 Studebaker 1966 Cruiser - Last of the line

Up until the day of my trip, I worked diligently on two projects, networked online with a few fellow creative professionals, and designed a plan of attack for my return on how to juggle a couple upcoming tasks. Having this mini-holiday sandwiched into my summer schedule was not only a pleasant surprise, it’s provided me with a welcome recharge to keep me going when burnout was lurking around the corner.

4) Rewrite or add one page to your website

You know the world of freelance is a little like that famous line from the 1990s classic Glengarry Glen Ross: “Always Be Closing.” As small business owners, we have to meet our clients’ needs while spontaneously keeping our eye out for more clients. For many of us, our websites serve as our permanent storefronts to help those who come browsing by for a chance to see what we have to offer.

You may not have the time or inclination to redo your entire website, but when was the last time you took a moment to analyze your content? Are your words delivering the right tone and message to entice potential clients to walk through the door, find what they’re looking for, and make a purchase?

Do you feel your website could do with a FAQ page? Or landing pages for each specific service you offer? There’s no right or wrong answer here. It’s simply about taking a moment to see if a tweak here or a rephrasing there might lead to better results. Why not use your summer to try it out? The end of summer is the perfect deadline to set for yourself if you want to try something new with your website without feeling overwhelmed.

5) Create a to do list, then don’t do anything on it for 3 days

Again, I know it seems like I’m advocating recklessness, but that’s not true at all. Most of us entrepreneurs are go-getters by nature. Sure, we may feel guilty if we sleep in a little later than usual or take an afternoon off to watch our kids play pee-wee football, but we make up for it by working even harder to alleviate the guilt after “playing hookey.” I had a recent exchange with another freelancer who said she would love to “blow off work and go for a jog,” but she had way too much on her plate to do stuff like that. Seriously?

Listen, I’m giving you permission to stop playing hookey and start remembering that you’re only human. According to those far more wise than I, procrastination is an art. But if you find that the life outside your window is passing you by, maybe freelancing isn’t making you feel so free.

Go for a swim.

Spend the afternoon drawing on a sketchpad.

Rearrange your living room furniture.

Head downtown and buy a last minute ticket to any event starting at 8pm — a play, the symphony, a roller derby match. It’s why you got into entrepreneurship in the first place … to live a life worth living.

Transformator by HikingArtist

And along the way, you’ll never know what will inspire your work. Maybe the tapestries inside the concert hall will spark an idea for your next web design. Maybe you’ll meet a cool photographer at a coffeeshop who might be interested in collaborating on a book. Maybe the pool water flowing along your back will relax your muscles so much so that you’ll be able to sit in your office chair an extra 2 hours next week while you bang out your latest project.

Allow art and spontaneity to influence your life, and in return, maybe your life will influence your art.

How is your summer going so far?
Do you have trouble combining work and play during the summer months?