Dog-Day Productivity

August tends to be my least productive month of the year if I’m left to my own devices. I think it’s a throwback to childhood, when those last lazy weeks of summer felt slow and uneventful, the weather hot and humid, the shiny lure of the new school year ahead both a promise and a threat. My natural inclination was to sleep late, read more books, and spend my afternoons in air conditioned movie theaters. My most energetic hours came after dinner, when the sun dropped and the temperature cooled as much as it was going to, and I felt like I could think clearly for the first time all day.

As an adult, my inclinations haven’t changed all that much. I’m a night owl by nature, and that’s never more true than during a heat wave when I crave the evening with its escape from a punishing sun and the oppressive heat that makes me yearn for a nap. But being an adult, I can’t quite spend the month lying about all day, seeking shady spots like an overheated house cat. I have a job, and chores, and other grown-up responsibilities. But that doesn’t mean I can’t adapt my schedule to best take advantage of my more productive hours. Come August, I become nearly nocturnal. I’ll use those mid-afternoon hours to run errands in air conditioned locales, then put in a few more hours at my desk after dark. I work when I feel most alert, and leave the more mindless activities for the part of the day when I feel sluggish.

Now, I’m aware that I’m fortunate in having a job that allows me this sort of flexibility. But there are plenty of other ways to ramp up your productivity if the summer has you lagging behind your writing goals. If you can’t rearrange your schedule to take advantage of when you feel most creative, how about changing your location or finding a new way to jump start your brain? Take your laptop to the local library and enjoy their air conditioning while you work on your daily word quota, or maybe shift to a different room in your house. My office has a west-facing window, which makes afternoons at my desk brutally hot, so sometimes I will take my laptop and work standing at the breakfast bar between my dining room and kitchen, the change of venue both far cooler and a great chance to stretch my legs. If the heat has you skimping on your regular workout — and losing out on brainstorming time — try taking a walk through your local mall to rev up your blood and your ideas, or take a dip at a local swimming pool. Let your mind drift and see what fresh plot twists occur to you.

Summer heat can make it difficult to remain productive. Energy dips, the beach or the local pool calls, and a nap in a shady spot sounds like the best idea ever. But if you take a look at your own work patterns and get a little creative, you can still hit those writing goals without feeling stressed. Good luck, and happy writing!

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