Summer is wearing on and you may be starting to feel like its a bit of a black hole for productivity especially if you’re self employed! Between bored kids, vbs, and day trips to the park, you might feel like the words summer and productive just don’t belong in the same sentence!
Fortunately, my friend Sophie, who writes about balance and slowing down at My Cup Runs Over has come up with some great tips for balancing work and summer fun, and she’s agreed to share them here today!
FROM SOPHIE at My Cup Runs Over
When you’re self-employed, finding time to get work done during the summer can be a serious challenge. The kids are home—and likely in need of entertaining—and you’d love nothing more than to pack a picnic, load everybody in the car, and head to the lake.
Unfortunately, you still have a business to run. Just because the sun is—finally—shining and the kids get a nice long break doesn’t mean we get to shut down our computers for two months and live it up. (Unless you are one of the lucky few who does get the summer off, in which case, stop reading this immediately and go enjoy it!)
But balancing work and fun in the summer doesn’t have to be onerous. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can take advantage of the flexibility that summer offers and have the best of both worlds.
So grab your notebook, pen, and calendar and let’s start making some plans!
Plan and prepare Early
Like the rest of the year, being productive and balanced in the summer is all about time management mastery. In this article, we walk through a six-step process to answer the following questions about your time:
- How much do you need?
- How much have you got?
- How do you get more?
- What do you do with what you have?
6 Steps to PLANNING YOUR Summer
Here is an overview of the the six-step process we’re going to follow:
- Set your goals: What, exactly, do you want to get done?
- Estimate the time required: Just how long is it gonna take?
- Define your parameters: How much time do you have?
- Get creative about childcare: Can you free up a little more?
- Plan your days: How will you get everything done?
- Maximize your fun time: What will you do with all that glorious free time?
1. Set Your Goals
Write down your answers to these questions:
- What do you want to accomplish this summer? These goals can be both work related and personal.
- Be as specific as possible. For example, ‘Finish first draft of my book’ is better than ‘Write more’.
- Feel free to throw as many goals as you want on the list for now. You can narrow it down later.
- What steps are required to meet each goal?
- Again, be specific. Using our example above, I might break my goal down into a word or chapter count. I would determine whether first draft includes an edit or not.
- When you have completed your list, enter them into the Time Estimator Table in Step 2 in the following order, using one line per step:
- Most important and most urgent
- Urgent, but not important
- Important, but not urgent
- Not important or urgent
2. Estimate the time Required
Print a copy (or two) of the Time Estimator Table below and estimate the hours needed to complete each step. Add all of the numbers up, then factor in a ten percent buffer for unforeseen activities. Add the buffer to the subtotal to find the Total Time Required
At this point, it’s a good idea to do a reality check. Summer break is about nine weeks long. Subtract from that any weeks where you will be on vacation or are not planning to work. Let’s say that’s two weeks. You’ve got seven weeks left to work with.
My initial Time Required came out at 364 hours. At seven weeks, that would mean fifty-two hours/week! Not happening!
If you find yourself in this boat, go back to your goals list and either cross off some of the less important items or rethink some of the steps so they can be done in less time.
3. Define Your Parameters
Consider the parameters that will affect your summer schedule.
- Do you have any vacations planned?
- Have you made other commitments that you need to factor in?
- At what time of day do you work best?
- What is/are the age(s) of your child(ren)? What needs of theirs will you need to meet?
- Will you need to arrange childcare? If so, what is your budget?
4. Get Creative About Childcare
Many factors will affect how much time you plan to spend with your kids this summer, but chances are you will need some level of help. I’ve put together a freebie for you that will cover formal and informal, as well as part-time and full-time options for a variety of budgets and age ranges.
Plan your kids’ activities to ensure that you have enough hours available per week to match your Total Time Required over the course of the summer.
5. Plan Your Days
Next, enter everything in your calendar. I highly recommend using an online calendar, such as
Google’s because you won’t have to enter repeating events more than once and you can access it from anywhere.
Now, when I say ‘enter everything’, I literally mean everything. Or at least, as close as you can get. Maximizing your time means knowing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing at any given time so that you don’t waste time trying to figure that out. I recommend entering things in the following order:
- Yes, sleep. This is the most important thing to schedule because it’s the first thing we cut back on when we feel like we need more time. Putting it into your calendar gives you the permission you need to put everything away and call it a day.
- Spiritual practice. If you like to start your day with a spiritual practice such as prayer, meditation, or journalling, put it on your calendar first thing in the morning. If you need to get up before your kids to make this happen, plan to go to bed early enough to do that.
- Trips and vacations. If you are going away at all, go ahead and block off those days right now.
- Go back to your list of parameters and enter them in. This would include company coming to stay with you, other commitments you’ve made, holidays, etc.
- Kids’ activities. Enter in whatever you’ve arranged for your kids to do. If you’re keeping them at home, you don’t need to get specific yet about what they’ll be doing, just block off the chunks of time.
- Your work. Block off the chunks of time that you’ll be working. Again, you don’t need to break it down yet, but you want to make sure that the time you block off is equal to or greater than your Time Required.
- If your kids will be participating in activities outside the home and more than ten minutes away from your home, consider finding an alternative place to work while they are there, in order to maximize your time. Coffee shops, libraries, and community centres are great for this.
- Fun time. Block off large chunks of time where you and your family will intentionally have fun. Ideally, you would do this at least once a day. It is summer, after all!
- Everything else. On my calendar, I enter in everything I want to get done. There are two reasons for this. 1) If it’s on the calendar, I’m 95% more likely to do it, and 2) It keeps me realistic. There’s nothing like a daily calendar to tell you if you’re trying to do too much. If there’s not enough time, it will be very clear.
Knowing this in advance may result in a little disappointment and force you to re-evaluate your priorities, but it will eliminate the guilt you feel at not being able to do everything you wanted. Here are some examples of things I put on my calendar.
- Date nights
- Meals, meal prep, chores
- Driving between activities
- Showering/bathing, other personal care activities
- Time with friends
- Catch-up time (For anything you fall behind on.)
- Special time with each kid
- Social media
- Budgeting/paying bills
- Do nothing time. (Everybody needs time where they’re free to just sit and think. Protect this time fervently.)
6. Maximize Your Fun Time
If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back. You’re doing awesome!
It takes a lot of work to do that much planning and prep but it’s about to pay off.
Take a look at the next page for some ideas on how to get the most out of your non-working hours.
- Create a summer bucket list. As a family, come up with a big checklist of all the things you hope to do together this summer.
- Get outside. Spend as much time out of the house as possible. This will give your kids a nice change of pace and will also result in less housework needing to be done.
- Be present. When you finish your work, leave it behind you. Avoid checking your phone, email, etc. when you are on your fun time. Let your family know that you are with them 100 percent.
- Make lots of memories. Try new things. Be adventurous. And don’t forget to take lots of pictures!
I hope this guide has helped you plan a productive and fun summer.
Thanks for those fantastic tips Sophie! Don’t forget to head over to My Cup Runs Over to grab your freebies!
Do you have any great tips for making your summer more productive? Add them in the comments!