Summer is right around the corner! There are always people who can’t wait for the summer so they could “play” even if they haven’t taken care of business during the rest of the year. And then, like clockwork, at the end of the Summer, folks are always complaining about how another summer has passed and once again, they failed to get anything done. As we head into summer, I’m feeling motivated to help get rid of the end-of-the-summer regret. Summer can be a very productive time of year!
We often fantasize about the freedom that summer represents, but there are some important challenges to consider during the summer months. The most important challenge is the deception of unstructured time. Freedom from shorter days (by way of daylight savings time), colder weather and dieting (by the time summer hits, you should already have that rock-hard body, right?!), summer can create the illusion that we have lots more time. Imagining that we have more than 24 hours in a day can lead us to procrastinate unnecessarily. Putting off things that can wait until after summer can create intense pressure to do everything all at once when the season ends. There are ways to have a productive summer:
1) Knowing what you need to accomplish
2) Creating a realistic plan to meet all of your needs
3) Connecting with the type of community, support, and accountability that will sustain you through the summer months.
How to Create a Summer Plan
When you have a plan for your personal goals this summer, you automatically lower the possibility of experiencing end-of-the-summer regret because you will have proactively and consciously chosen activities that lead to specific endpoints. A summer plan allows you to define your goals, identify the activities that will help you achieve them, and provides you with confidence so that when August rolls around you will have accomplished all the things that are important to you and your future success.
Step #1: Start With Your Goals
Start by writing down all of your personal and professional goals for the summer. I make sure all of my goals are SMART goals. In other words, I try to state my goals in Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic, and Time-Framed statements. So, instead of saying “learn how to cook” as a goal, I’ll write “take one cooking class each month.” Listing your goals is the fun part, so enjoy it.
Step #2: Outline Tasks Required To Achieve Your Goals
For each of your end-of-summer writing goals, determine all the tasks necessary to achieve the goal. Each of your goals will require specific tasks in order to be accomplished by August. If you’re a visual person (as opposed to a list-maker), then try mapping out a flow chart for each of your goals. Some will be simple &others will be complex; the main point is that if all you’re doing is setting goals without identifying all the small steps that are necessary to achieve them, you are unlikely to finish the summer with much progress or productivity.
Step #3: Map Your Projects Onto Time
Here’s where it always gets ugly. Take a long hard look at your calendar and make sure you have blocked out all of your summer commitments (vacation, moving, conference travel, childcare, summer teaching, etc.). What is left is the time you realistically have to complete all the projects necessary to accomplish your goals. Use your best estimate as to how long your projects will take and find specific weeks in your calendar when this work will get done. I believe that this is where things get ugly because inevitably you will have more projects than will fit into the summer weeks. But now you can proactively make decisions about the work that doesn’t fit into your calendar by scaling back your goals, re-negotiating deadlines, requesting additional support, prioritizing, delegating, and/or letting some things go. Whatever you decide, you will feel far more empowered making your decisions in advance then simply hoping you’ll meet all of your goals and then ending another summer disappointed and frustrated over all the work that didn’t get done.
Step #4: Execute The Plan On A Daily Basis
Once you have a plan for your summer activity, it’s up to you to actually do it! I sit down at the beginning of each week to review what writing tasks I have planned for that week and figure out what specific day and time I will complete them. We are all motivated by different things, so try to figure out what motivates YOU and build it into your weekly life. Personally, I am motivated by food so when I finish my tasks each week, I get to eat that extra piece of pie! My treats don’t have to be expensive or extravagant; they’re just a little dose of personal pleasure for a job well done.
As always, adapt these steps to fit your life circumstances & personal needs. And once you have a plan, I encourage you to share it with your mentors to get their suggestions, feedback, and ideas. This way, no matter how the summer goes, you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you went into the summer with a clear plan & worked to execute it!
I hope that going through the process of making a summer plan will help you to identify your priorities, clarify how all of your personal and professional needs can get met, and energize you for the summer months.