August is to recess what November is to elections (and January is to the State of the Union and — once upon a time — what July was to appropriations). August is the month of shorter to-do lists and longer lunches. With Congress out of session, it's an ideal time to take vacation, or to just leave early for midday cocktails.
But even the summertime recess can become routine, and the once-ambitious to-do list can grow stale. So how do you make the most of the "District Work Period?" Hill Navigator has some ideas . 1. Go to the state/district . No August recess is complete without a few days (or even a week) in the district/state office. Those lucky enough to work for their home-state member can turn these trips into some quality family visiting time, but for those who work elsewhere, district trips are still valuable. Here’s why: Capitol Hill is its own, isolated microcosm of a community. The politics and policies fiercely debated here have a way of translating much differently outside the Beltway. Even if you aren’t one to mull over the legislative accomplishment (or lack thereof) of Congress, going to the state/district will serve as a reminder of whom you represent (and their transportation needs, which may serve particularly useful this fall). Hearing from people — whether in a town hall meeting or Waffle House— may be the best dose of reality you’ll get all summer.
2. Catch up with everyone. This isn’t restricted to happy hours or Hawk 'n' Dove. Use the August recess to grab coffee with people you’ve worked with during the year; bonus if you can connect with people on the other side of the aisle. Success on Capitol Hill depends in part on connections. Good connections require maintenance, and maintenance goes beyond clicking "like" on Facebook. August is the ideal time to do that.
3. Get smarter. Step away from Instagram and use the August recess to brandish legislative credentials. Our friends at the Congressional Research Service make this easy. The CRS offers a full range of programs for congressional staff — free of charge – including policy and legal seminars, legislative research and orientation programs. Go to CRS.gov and click on “events” to see their full offerings for Hill staff. (Unfortunately for non-Hill staff, this website is not accessible outside of Congress). If you have questions, give CRS a call at (202) 707-5700. Looking to read something of the non-legislative variety? Try Hill Navigator’s summer reading list for suggestions.
4. Get your HR in order. Do you have student loans and did you know your office might be able to repay them? Does your office pay overtime ? Do you have a flexible spending account, or a dependable-care flexible spending account, and need to submit reimbursements? Some of the human resources aspects of our jobs take time to sort out. And sometimes we need to have an actual conversation with the good people who file our claims to check in on the status or get our paperwork in order. Don’t wait until your life is busy again in September. Do it now.
5. Clean up. Try the old-fashioned desk cleanse. Grab a bottle of all-purpose cleaner and give your workspace a good once-over. Maybe you’ll unearth an old memo or to-do list to jump-start your recess with some fresh ideas.