Summer is finally here! The sun is out longer, school is on a break (or maybe summer hours start) and life is full of possibilities. Are you taking advantage of it?
Some ideas for making this summer the best one yet:
1. Check your 2015 goals. You’re seven months into the year. What’s working? What isn’t? What changes are important the second half of this year? Don’t look in the rearview mirror at what was done or not—look to the future.
2. Seriously unplug. Build in time to relax. Go to the beach. Plan time with friends. Even if you are in the middle of a major project or you’ve just started a new job, you need to unplug. A mental break will change your perspective and focus. A break is more than just vacation time or a free weekend—it changes how you think.
3. Take a class. Check out what your local college offers. Enroll in an online class or video series. What can you learn to grow as a person or boost your career? Now’s the time to check out summer schedules and sign up.
4. Start a small business on the side. If you dream of being an entrepreneur but aren’t yet ready to jump in, try a summer experiment and see what works. Share your new photography business on Facebook, let your network know about your freelance writing business or start offering yoga classes at the local gym. See what resonates, learn and then decide if it’s the start of a hobby or a career change.
5. Plan something you’ve never done before. New information and the unexpected invigorate our brains. Take the painting class you’ve wanted to take. Join the comedy improv class. Sign up for the local university’s lecture series. This creativity can spill over into all parts of your life.
6. Find a new outside activity. If you normally walk, start riding a bike. Find some friends and start an informal tennis group. Try something new that gets you moving while the weather is nicer and the sun is up later.
7. Visit your favorite mentor. If you haven’t chatted with your mentor recently, set up some time to do so. Because you are assessing your midyear progress, it’s the perfect time to talk to someone with a broader perspective to help you refocus.
8. Try one new organizing tool or app. There are so many new choices out there. If you still organize yourself the way you did 10 years ago, it’s time to refresh. Wunderlist, Evernote and many new tools give you renewed choices. Update how you organize yourself for the back half of the year.
9. Read more. Reading expands our minds. In our busy lives, it can be hard to find the time. Create a reading folder for interesting online articles. When you hear about a great new book, download it on your Kindle right then. Start a book club so you can share what you learned.
10. Make social media work for you. Rather than think of social media as a separate thing, consider how it can be part of your goals and plans. Use Twitter to stay current on the articles and research in your field; contribute and connect, too. Let Pinterest help you market your new business. Learn, experiment and get engaged in the way that works just for you.
11. Plan your vacation. A recent article in Time claimed that more and more people are reducing or skipping vacation. Even if it is a “staycation” and you plan fun activities while at home, you need the break. Work can make it without you for a week. The later you plan vacation, the harder it is to pull off at work and you may miss out on the best prices or availability on travel.
12. Set a check-in with your boss. You don’t have to wait for your annual review or be bound by your company’s performance process. Set time for a midyear check-in with your manager and your clients. Be proactive. Listen and make adjustments. Don’t let your end-of-year performance feedback be a surprise.
13. Reconnect with your circle. If work has overtaken your schedule, you are probably neglecting the relationships essential to your growth and success. Make your list and then schedule lunch or make a call to catch up. Don’t let the year go by neglecting your network.
14. Shake up your daily routine. Minor changes in habits can bring major results. If you have fallen into a daily schedule rut, change it! Start your day with an early walk. Build in time to think and meditate. Block an hour a day to catch up on emails and calls. Make time to read or connect with friends. Reserve an hour at the start or end of each week to plan the following week so your time is spent on your priorities.
15. Relook at how you spend your most precious asset. Time is your greatest asset and one we often spend with the least intent. Protect your schedule and time. Bow out of meetings that no longer require your attendance. Learn to say no. But also, what’s missing from your schedule that really matters?
Summer is a great time to recharge. Make the second half of 2015 great. Do yourself a favor and try something new. It’s time.
“Aaah, summer—that long-anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends.”
Patti Johnson is a career and workplace expert and the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human resources consulting firm. Her first book, “Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work & in Life,” hit shelves in May 2014. A version of this article was originally published in SUCCESS.