While the springtime brings blooming flowers and longer days, it can also be one of the more challenging times of the year. Our plates are full with projects that kicked off in the winter months, summer vacations are still months away, and many are undergoing annual review cycles that might have stacks of staff evaluations flooding our inboxes. It's easy to lose momentum and suddenly find yourself at year end wondering where the time went. Here are four tips to escape the mid-year blues and power through the second half of the year.
Plan or execute a "real" vacation
There's a strange tendency at many companies to play martyr. You may have met, or perhaps might be, the person who perennially mentions the thousands of unread mails in their inbox and their triple-booked calendar. Worst of all, this person routinely dials into conference calls while nominally on vacation, and comes back just as stressed as when they left, or worse yet, brags about the weeks of vacation they lose each year.
Companies don't provide vacation out of kindness; rather, leaders know that burned out employees are not effective. You'll return to work mentally and physically recharged after taking a "real" vacation, and ultimately be a better leader because of it. Take the time to plan or execute a vacation with friends or loved ones, and when you take the time away, make sure that you're not simply working remotely. You need not turn "go dark" and let problems queue in your absence; rather, find a balance that works for you and empower subordinates to handle problems without worrying that the boss is second guessing them from afar. You might be surprised that the world continues to rotate even though you've skilled the three dozen status calls while you actually relaxed and recharged.
Check the docket
Mid-year is the perfect time to evaluate the long-term projects that you're engaged in. There are likely some that have become more or less relevant as the year has progressed, and spending a few days reevaluating your priorities now allows for enough time to accelerate and complete a more important initiative before year end. There's likely still funding in the budget or opportunities to redirect funding, so rather than continuing to blindly march forward toward objectives set earlier in the year, validate those objectives and redirect your energies appropriately.
Delegate a task
One of the best things a leader can do is delegate an important task. You get to take an item off your plate and make room for more important activities, and the designee gets an opportunity to develop his or her skills and ultimately take responsibility for an item that was important enough for you to do personally. Ideally, you'll find a recurring task that's meaningful enough to stretch your subordinate, but no longer requires your personal attention on a daily basis. Provide input and oversight for the first week or two, but avoid the temptation to dictate precisely how the task is performed, otherwise you'll ultimately reassume responsibility through micromanagement. While you'll take a productivity hit as you initially transition the work, ultimately you'll grow your own capabilities while simultaneously developing your subordinate's growth.
Learn something new
We're at one of the most interesting times to be an IT leader since perhaps the dawn of IT as a discipline. Digital transformation, cognitive computing, IoT, blockchain, and myriad other technologies are promising to change the way we interact with technology, and business leaders finally see technology as a core strategic enabler rather than a mere support function. To take advantage of this revolution, spend some time learning about some of these emerging technologies, either through personal research, a trusted vendor, or a colleague or subordinate well-versed in these areas. While it may seem frivolous, you'll walk away a more valuable leader and with a new energy around your profession.
Rather than allowing the middle of the year to feel like a grind, try some of the tips above to revise your plans, recharge, and reinvigorate. You'll find you're a more effective and engaged leader, and will finish the year strong.
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.