photo credit: UGArdener via photopin cc

The months of July and August can be slower ones for many small businesses in the U.S. While we’ve got a thing or two to learn from some other cultures about taking a “real” holiday, many business owners and their clients take vacations and spend less time thinking about business during the summer months.

You may still feel just as busy doing busy kind of things, but the key to making this mini breather pay is to look at the summer months as a launching pad for growth and improvement into next year. Many times we keep our head down doing the work and can’t seem to find the right amount of time to dedicate to the needs of the business.

Below are five things that I try to do each summer as a way to make the rest of the year more fruitful.

1) Find some new inspiration It’s pretty easy to get in the habit of reading the same blogs, following the same people, and picking up the same magazines. You may have developed your go to list and that’s great, but in doing so, it’s easy to miss fresh new voices with lots to say unless you get outside of your bubble.

Take one hour and reshuffle your RSS Reader. Think about some new categories of information you should be consuming and search around and find some lists of “who to read” in that category or industry. Clean out those newsletter subscriptions you never seem to read and make room for some new inspiration.

2) Start planning 2015 now Sometimes it feels like it’s hard to plan the week ahead much less dream about the vision for the future. The problem with this trap, however, is that where you want to go in 2015 and beyond should inform how you plan next week and maybe even tomorrow.

Take a day, or half of a day, and think about the big picture for 2015. Don’t wait until December to do it or you’ll find that it’s March before you actually start to think it’s 2015. (And then March Madness starts and you’re really in trouble.) Break the rest of this year into 90-day blocks and map the big projects you need to accomplish to make the big vision for next year happen right now!

3) Deepen a relationship When’s the last time your reached out to someone you hadn’t spoken with for a while just to say “hey let’s get coffee this week.” It’s probably been a while, right? We’re all so darn busy “building relationships” we don’t have the time to do what it actually takes to build relationships.

Whether you’ve slowed down a bit or not during this time of year, it’s a perfect time to identify a handful of relationships you’ve neglected and put some very mindful energy into renewing them. You pick – a couple of key customers, a strategic partner, a college friend, your brother, or maybe, even your spouse!

4) Learn a new skill I like to use the summer months each year to tackle something hard and confusing and valuable as a way to remain relevant and useful to my clients and my business. This year I’m diving deeper into analytics. It’s a bit like math to me, but may be the single most important gap I have in my ability to apply both experience and process to help make sense of marketing for my clients and readers.

I’ve subscribed to relevant blogs, picked up some books and tracked down an online course or two to create my curriculum. Of course, then I’ll immediately apply what I can in the real world.

5) Create a new habit Good habits are awesome because they do two things. If chosen wisely they can bring the benefit of doing something good for you on a consistent basis and they can help push another, not so good, habit out of the way. In fact, it’s been proven that the best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a better one.

This summer I’m getting back into yoga. I’ve been a long time practicer but somewhere in the stress and chaos created from my last book I lost it. My knees and my blood pressure tell me it’s time to get back to it.

There you have it – an entire plan for how to wisely use your August this year. Of course taking a little time off wouldn’t kill you either!

And finally – this sounds so ridiculous to say, but I’m just going to say it anyway – I’ve started turning my phone off for extended periods and I can’t believe how much less stress I feel. Give it a try!

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Stephen Hauer

    Be Open to Nature and let Nature’s Exquisite Sensual Beauty wash
    out Your Modern Society Inner Voices.

  • Helpful actions to take are we round out 2014 and consider best options for 2015. These are also helpful after a vacation in Colorado hiking and river rafting…

  • Useful Article John! Relationship and Skill are most expressive acts here, we can definitely build relationship with our consumer while we build up skills on the process. Thanks for Sharing!

  • Humberto González Lara

    Thanks John! Life is short, so everything should be a chain of value, just like you are proposing these days, in the sense you focus it. In fact, vacation isn´t disconnection, right? In these times, maybe vacation could be “workation”. Enjoy your workation!

  • Hi John,
    Great blog
    post:-) I think the summer is a great time to rebuild some of the relationships
    that may have been lost during the year. For my company and I, we have really
    begun to focus on actually connecting to the human side of our customers. We
    try to call clients at least once a week so that we are more than just an email
    thread. I see that you linked to the Google Analytics course, I found that to
    be helpful (although a little dated!). I think Avinash Kaushak has one of the
    better blogs about analytics. What is the most interesting new things you
    learned about analytics?
    – Adam

  • It’s good to know you are getting back to yoga. I’ve been a practitioner for 15+ years and it’s so good for me, both physically and mentally, partciularly as I age. It’s hard to find the time for a daily practice, so I get up earlier. Great post – thanks!

  • Phil Turner

    Thanks John. When I was teaching I used to use a few weeks in August to regroup my resources like this. This post serves as a reminder to me that it is something I need to do now more than ever. I don’t know if I am going to find time for all your ideas, but definitely 2 or 3: planning 2015, reading different material and creating a new habit. My own new habit is going for a 1 hour brisk walk at 12.30 when my thinking is slowing down and before lunch