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Five Ways to Have a Productive Summer: Start a Side Project

23/07/2014 15:23 BST | Updated 21/09/2014 10:59 BST

We all know that feeling of elation and excitement in the days, weeks or even months leading up to a well earnt and long overdue holiday. But when it comes to it, do you ever find yourself wondering if perhaps you should try to be more productive with what precious time you have to yourself?

Whether you are relaxing at home for two weeks or lapping up some rays abroad, there are always things to keep the boredom at bay: from the intellectually fulfilling to the social, charitable and active - we've got access to all of it.

Learn one new thing

It often feels like you need to set aside a year or more to learn a new skill, but a week of quiet time on holiday is the perfect setting to pick up a new skill. My favourite is speed reading, which comes in very useful in my line of work. Mastering speed reading should only take about 20 minutes, and there are hundreds of articles online that will help you, such as this one from one of my favourite authors Tim Ferriss. Do this on your next holiday, then all of your subsequent ones you'll be able to read twice as much for fun.

Devote time to charity

Whether your holiday consists of relaxing on a beach or enjoying a lie-in at home, you can always spare a little time to put towards a charitable cause. If you are holidaying away, perhaps take time to plan an event to do in the future. A big car wash, a barbecue or even a car boot sale with all that junk you have just cleared out. The time to think will pay dividends for your forward planning. Be inventive and organise your objectives. If you are enjoying your time off at home why not pop down to a local Soup Kitchen and offer a helping hand? I find it broadens horizons as well as of course being a very worthwhile cause.

Write a book

Over 1.3 million books have been published this year alone, and according to Author Solutions data, self-publishing is on the rise. A common holiday pastime is of course to read a book, but nowadays it's becoming easier and easier to write one too. Londoner Andy Leeks managed to write his best-selling book whilst commuting on the London underground, so writing while lying on a sun lounger or in the comfort of your own home is definitely a more pleasant and serene alternative to get your started.

Switch off

Not too long ago, holidays were for switching off. Now they are about applying the perfect Instagram filter, to show everyone at home your sea view. In the 'always on' world we now live in, it pays to force yourself to switch off. Digital detoxes are on the rise and many technology executives swear by them. Arianna Huffington herself is an advocate, as is Cisco's CTO Padmasree Warrior. So what better time to try switching off than on your annual leave?

Clear it all out

A productive, but arguably less pleasurable task to do on your time off might be to have a mighty mental clear out. Getting Things Done author Dave Allen espouses such clear-outs, and the creation of one single work / life to-do list, which helps reduce stress and also helps keep you focused. So stop hoarding, be brutal. Chuck out those hand-me-downs and streamline your inboxes. This will not only help clear your mind it will also free up some space. I know a clear out isn't everyone's number one holiday activity, but as well as keeping you occupied it will fulfill you with that ever desired feel-good-feeling when it's over.

If you're the type of person who gets agitated with your time off, or even if you're not; I hope these suggestions are enough to inspire you to be more productive and selfless, should you manage to get some moments to yourself on your time off that is.