As a former art teacher with paid summers off, I know how to waste a good vacation. The first few days are all about relaxing and unplugging from work mode. Then comes the manic cleaning and project ideas. Next is the "Why am I so tired even though I'm not working so I should take a deserved break" phase. Then the holidays and parties show up, quickly followed by back to school sales and before you know it, it's the end of August again. So how do you break the cycle?
Scheduling, my friends, is the key. It's not cute, it's not sexy, but it is the most effective way to have fun and be productive this summer and wouldn't you like to do both? I learned this lesson my senior year of college when I took an independent art class to prepare for my senior show, the culmination of all I'd learned in my photography classes for 4 years. Almost 5 months of free time to prepare for my final project seemed like a lot, but with no professor to guide me, I knew that it could be a recipe for disaster. So I sat down on Day 1 with my calendar and scheduled out everything I needed to get done from start to finish, based on the days I had and how much time each task would take. And it worked! I stuck to my self-imposed deadlines and had ample time for everything with no mad dash at the end. It was such a satisfying feeling that it gave me a reason to schedule even more of my life to the fullest.
So flash forward to my summers off as an art teacher - I was older and wiser so why wasn't I getting more done and feeling more satisfied each summer? I realized that I had no deadlines, no outside motivation, nor reason to follow through on my fun ideas over the summer because they were just that - ideas. So I didn't deem them worthy of scheduling in my calendar and surprise, surprise, then they weren't getting done. So I started to think of my summer vacation as a pretend summer job and take it more seriously. I got out the calendar again (this time digital) and starting scheduling more than the set in stone items - fun stuff, house projects, and even goals to work towards. Reading 1 book a month for pleasure sounds super easy in 30 days, but scheduling in reading time makes it possible to read much more and keep the mindless web-surfing or TV watching at bay if you are conscious that reading is a goal of yours.
Last summer I implemented Friday Splash Days with my kids at home. We went to a different splash park each Friday and racked up 8 new places to visit that I wouldn't have found had I not scheduled them in. Without the calendar, we probably would have gone a few times, but most likely to the closest one to our home. Being new to Austin, I also wanted to visit a bunch of the touristy things, so I made it a point to schedule in checking the Free Fun In Austin website every Friday and the Community Impact Events calendar monthly to schedule our weekend plans.
I also scheduled in time to shop for home improvement supplies and time to actually do those projects around our other events and made sure not to underestimate the true amount of time it would take to do these things. Painting a room does not take an afternoon, especially with kids in your home, so plan realistically. These chores were scheduled with a good balance of the fun activities so the summer didn't start with lots of fun, then become lots of boring, and then turn into a whine fest. By mixing in the good, bad, and ugly each week I'd finally avoided the end of summer dread as well - that "hurry up because school is about to start and I ran out of time to get this all done and why do I always do this to myself" feeling. You know the one.
So it's not too late right now to make your master list of everything you want to do this summer. Then the essential next step is scheduling everything and I mean everything into your summer, now through Labor Day. Play dates, vacations out of town, back to school shopping, redoing your closets, cleaning out the pantry, finishing the scrapbooks - get it all on there. If you want the grocery shopping and other errands in there too, then go for it.
Yes, your calendar is going to look full, but as we tell our clients, you are going to end up doing most of these things anyway, whether you write them down or not. So why not schedule to do them at the best time for you instead of resorting to the last minute, which is probably the worst time for you. It seems unlikely that spending an hour scheduling to dos can actually save you time but it truly can. For example, what if you spent one afternoon this week buying all of the presents for the upcoming summer birthdays now? One trip for 1 hour this week or 4 trips all summer long at the last minute - what sounds like more fun? It's totally up to you, but I plan on relaxing by the pool this summer, not at the store, and I'm scheduled to be at the pool.... gotta go.