The year is now officially half over. With July 4th in the rearview mirror, we are now in the throes of summer, with the height of vacation season upon us. For most of us, our New Year’s resolutions are now a distant memory, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still focus on self-improvement.

The summer is a great time to regroup and think about things you can do now to finish the year strong. Ideally, colleagues taking vacations and the pace slowing down at your firm mean that you will have time to take on a few new projects or reevaluate what you are doing now.

Here are five things you can do this summer to set yourself up for a great second half of the year.

1. Take a vacation
Americans are known for their reluctance to take vacations. Depending on the study you read, the average American worker uses less than half of their allocated vacation time and only about one-quarter use all of it. Researchers have found that many workers feel they will be seen as less dedicated if they take a vacation and, unfortunately, some say the fear of being replaced holds them back. The research is clear, though – taking a vacation is good for your mental health as well as your productivity. A recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 75% of managers believe taking vacation time leads to improved performance and 78% of managers think it increases job satisfaction.

A vacation doesn’t need to be costly. Even a staycation will do, but take some time to unplug from the office. If you want to learn more about the impact of taking time off, check out Project: Time Off's 2018 Report.

2. Build your toolbox
While you take that vacation time, you might want to catch up on some reading. Each summer, plenty of well-known people publish their recommended reading lists. I won’t venture to provide you with one of my own, but I can recommend these:

5 Books Worth Reading This Summer – Bill Gates

The 2018 Summer Reading List for MarketersForbes

A Hot Summer Reading List for Cool CommunicatorsPR News

These lists include pleasure reading as well as work-focused titles. Reading of any kind helps expand your point of view and will expose you to new ways to present information.

If your summer plans include a road trip, consider tuning into a new podcast. Here are a few I recently explored:

LMA Podcast – Legal Marketing Association

AAMplify! – Association for Accounting Marketing

Big Law Business PodcastBloomberg Law

I will admit, these are all work related, but they are interesting and timely.

3. Revisit your firm’s crisis communication plan

Summer is a great time of year to dust off your crisis communication plan to make sure it still addresses the issues faced by your organization and reflects any staff and technology changes.

If you don’t have a crisis communications plan, which was the case for about 50% of the attendees of a recent Jaffe-hosted webinar on “Getting Ahead of a PR Crisis,” get to work and develop a plan! A crisis never calls ahead to let you know it’s coming, and rarely happens when you have a clear schedule and your entire team is in the office. But some preparation can make the process easier to survive without business or reputational damage.

Some things to think about:

  • Determine possible scenarios
  • Create checklists and instructions for each scenario
  • Identify/Refresh official spokespeople
  • Draft prepared messages and statements
  • Identify your audiences
  • Develop your team
  • Understand ethics rules
  • Practice the plan
  • Evaluate

If you missed our webinar on crisis communications, don’t worry – you can watch it on demand. If you need help getting started, take a look at our Crisis Communication Policy Template.

4. Take a gut check
It is good to reflect on where you are relative to where you want to be (or thought you would be) at this point of the year. How are you doing on your marketing goals for the year? Are you where you thought you would be? If not, how can you change course and get back on track?

5. Reconnect with your network
We all get busy, but it is essential to stay connected to your personal and professional networks even during slow times. Invite a colleague to lunch whom you haven’t seen in awhile and take some time to get caught up. What about a former colleague who has moved on – have you checked in with him or her lately?

Your networks are invaluable, and you can’t simply build them when you need them. You need to cultivate your networks all the time.

Peter Shankman makes a habit of trying to help others. He regularly posts the following on social media, “Another Monday has arrived, another chance to be freaking AWESOME! What amazing and exciting thing are you doing this week? More importantly, how can I help? Reach out to me at shankman.com and let me know!” Peter is a master networker and people-connector with an enviable contact list. He has built his network by focusing on helping others, not on what others can do to help him. Now, think about how you can help people in your network. Is there a connection that you can facilitate?

Summer is my favorite season. It brings lots of opportunity for time outside with friends and family – and to prepare for the rest of the year. I hope you get a chance to spend some time enjoying a break from the office with family and friends this summer and can come back rejuvenated and ready to finish the second half of 2018 strong.

What is something you do during the slower summer months? Send me a note at mmccormick@jaffepr.com to share how you use your summer free time, or tweet me @MichelleMcCorm. And if you read any of the books on the reading lists I mentioned, send me your review.