The last two weeks of summer can be brutal.
At work, there is a tendency to drift into automatic pilot until after Labor Day, which begins a hectic sprint to the end of the year.
At home, bored kids desperately need to go back to school so they will quit playing Xbox. As adults, it’s becoming all too easy to spend too much time channel surfing, Internet surfing or both, now that summer is just about played out.
If you’re an investor or advisor, the stock market is in a similar state. Last Friday’s trading range on the Dow was the narrowest in 5½ years and the 3-point range on the S&P was the narrowest in 7½ years. Investors are in the summer doldrums as many have gone to cash because of the Euro-crisis, the impending fiscal cliff, the Presidential election, or the usual fears of an October meltdown.
At a time like this, we have two clear choices: 1) We can worry about what is going to happen next, like the Anxious Idiot recently wrote in a New York Times blog, or 2) We can take advantage of a precious resource of which there is never enough – free time.
Time To Think
Peter Drucker, the father of modern management and the person who coined the term “knowledge worker,” realized in 1960 that time was one of the most important elements in successful decision-making.
In The Effective Executive, Drucker wrote that the best decisions flow from sufficient time to analyze an issue from every angle. The most effective decisions are the ones in which we carefully weigh the pros and cons. Instinctive decisions, as we are accustomed to making on the fly in the heat of the business day, are often the worst.
The challenge in the digital era is that deliberation can take weeks, months or even years. That seems almost impossible to manage in the frenetic world of business today.
With Prof. Drucker in mind and a little more time than usual on our hands, we offer a simple plan for rolling back the summer blahs and the anxiety that often goes with them.
§ Take time to really think through an opportunity or problem. Whether it's your job, your portfolio or your life, invest the time to fully examine it. Come back to it on a number of occasions between now and Labor Day – or even beyond. You don’t necessarily need to make a decision right away, but time spent now can help prevent a poor emotional decision in the future.
§ Find time for the people you’ve been putting off. You know who they are: A co-worker, high school friend or distant family member, get them on the calendar today. Not seeing them feeds your anxiety. You’ll feel better if you do the right thing.
§ Treat yourself to the luxury of more education. It’s easier than ever to access the brightest minds on the planet. Through iTunesU or Coursera, you can take university classes on every imaginable subject online in two weeks or less. Quite often, diving into a field completely unrelated to work can trigger insights that can be applied at work. The good news is that you don’t even have to try hard to connect the dots. Your active mind will do it for you.
We spend a lot of time at year-end looking at our New Year resolutions, but why not take this lull in the action to do a mid-year refresh?
Summer doldrums don’t have to be brutal. We just have to make an affirmative choice to do something about them.