Summer goes by so fast.
We blink, and it’s Labor Day, and we’re left wondering where the summer went. In past years, I’ve felt a little sadness, even regret, at not getting to do something that summer, because I just ran out of time.
I think totally differently about time these days. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. I like to think it’s because I’m getting wiser. Time is a gift. The gift of time is the gift of living, of life. Time is the one thing we literally cannot get back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
I like this analogy. Imagine if minutes were dollar bills and every passing minute is like spending a dollar. The clock ticks on. You spend your time one minute after another. How do you use your time? Are you spending your time, your life, the way you want? The truth is, time is way more valuable than money. One can always create more money. Time, not so much.
This is my 22nd summer in the great state of Alaska, and summer is a wonderful time to be here. I think most of us can agree on that! To get the most of our summer, Bill and I have developed a system for creating the best summer ever. If you’d like to get more out of your summer, and even, maybe, have the best summer EVER, read on, my friend.
Designing the best summer ever can be accomplished in six steps. This process can take a little while, but I promise you, it is so worth it! You’ll have a summer unlike any you’ve experienced.
I’m going to start off by suggesting some questions you can ask yourself. Get some paper and just kind of do some brainstorming. Write down the fun summer ideas that pop into your head. This is a really good thing to do as a family. You’ll get all kinds of feedback on what the whole gang likes to do.
What kind of summer do you want to have? What do you want to do? What have you done with your summers in the past? How is this different than what you want this summer to be? What do you expect to do this summer? Do you have obligations or activities you need to attend? How important are these events? Do you have to go, or do you want to go? Why? Do you like your reasons why?
We get to decide if we deliberately use our summer the way we want, or just let it happen to us. Time passes whether we plan or not. Make a list of activities you absolutely want to be a part of. Let’s call this your summer bucket list.
There are weekly, or perhaps daily activities, we do only when it’s summer. What are the summer activities or items you routinely do? Lawn mowing, yard work, picking up dog poop, going for a walk? These are routine summer tasks. For example, my backyard needs to be mowed once a week. The front yard can go two weeks, depending on how much rain we’ve had.
Get out the calendar. Put down the events, birthdays, and activities you are committed to going to. Make a note of holidays and days off work. Schedule time to complete the routine summer tasks, or make plans to delegate the tasks out – hire someone to do the yard, for example.
Take your summer bucket list and prioritize the events/activities from “I can’t wait for this happen” to “this will be nice.” In other words, prioritize from most important to least important. Then take the prioritized summer bucket list, and strategically think about where the items might fit best on your calendar. Remember, fish show up when they do, and weather happens. So give yourself some wiggle room for life and mother nature. Move list item by list item to your calendar, and voila! Your summer fun is all laid out. Now, to have the best summer ever, you just follow the plan on your calendar. Don’t worry about the activities that didn’t make the calendar. Just stick to your plan and if time opens up, and those items fit, do them! Have fun!
Step six is the simplest step of them all. However, it’s often not the easiest. Step six is stick to your plan. Humans are like ravens in the sense that if they see something shiny along the way, they go to take a look at what it might be. It’s easy to wake up on a gloriously sunny Saturday morning, like today, as I’m writing this, to think “Calendar schmalendar!” and get sucked into Netflix or Facebook, and before you know it, half the day is gone, and you haven’t had any summer fun. (Good thing summer days are so long, right?)
So keep it simple and stick to your plan. Your human brain is a fantastic marvel of machinery. The pre-frontal cortex, the front part of your brain, is the most sophisticated planner on the planet. Your primitive brain, I call it the lizard brain, is really good at quick making decisions, especially when you’re in danger. The lizard brain prompts you to grab a donut from the break room table as you pass by – even though, that morning, you rededicated yourself to eating clean.
Your pre-frontal cortex, your human brain, is the part of your brain you use to plan. Stick with your plan, and you will have the best summer ever! When your lizard brain pipes up, just notice it and keep on keeping on. If you want to change the schedule, make decisions 24 hours ahead of time that aren’t emotionally charged. Decisions made on the spur of the moment, are often made with the lizard brain.
This is how Bill and I plan our summer.
First, we have a Family Meeting. Our family meetings are on Sundays, usually. The summer-planning-family-meeting is a special event. We talk and brainstorm about what we want to do and how busy we want the summer to be. Here’s what we came up with for this summer: hike Crow Creek Pass, state shooting match, travel to see the grand kiddos, camping up the Parks Highway, go to Valdez, dipnet fishing on the Kenai, State Fair, and jarring up huckleberry jam. Then we prioritize our summer bucket list.
Next, we take a look at the weekly and daily things that need to go on the calendar, and decide who is going to do what, and when. And then we get out the calendar and make sure we have the events of work and daily life on it.
Then comes the fun part.
We start at the top of the list and put our summer fun on the calendar. We give things a little wiggle room, and we’re good to go. We’ve done this long enough to know that once it’s on the calendar, it’s done. It’s going happen because we commit to the calendar.
Life is dynamic and changes, right? If something comes up and we want to change the plan, we make the decision ahead of time using our planning, thinking brains. We try not to rely on our lizard brains as much as possible when planning. We don’t let the weather be a deterrent to our summer fun either. As long as safety isn’t an issue, we go even if it’s going to be wet.
Let me take a moment and tell you what you might be thinking: That much planning sounds like too much work. It sounds constraining, restrictive, and boring. Being locked into a calendar plan doesn’t leave room for spontaneity.
I get it. I thought those thoughts myself once upon a time.
I’ve learned this: We all have a plan whether we thought it out on purpose or we just let it happen.
I highly recommend giving this a try. If planning the whole summer seems too much, start with a fun weekend.
One final thought, don’t be married to the plan. The best part of having a plan is the freedom you get from having it. You make around 65,000 decisions a day. Yes, I said a day! Making decisions ahead of time, with your sophisticated human brain, is so much a better and efficient use of your brain. When you come up with a plan for how you want to spend your summer, you’ll free up some brain cycles to work on something else important.
Once you start off on your adventure, be open to the experience you’re having. Be present and really enjoy what you’re doing. Don’t get so wrapped up in executing your plan that you don’t stop to smell the wildflowers and notice the wonders around you.
President Dwight D Eisenhower once said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”
Have the best summer ever.
Elizabeth Pearch is a Master Instructor and Certified Professional Weight Loss and Life Coach. To reach Elizabeth, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.