Summer is a short, beautiful time that brings a unique set of stressors and challenges. For many of us, it’s a brief few weeks when our schedules change. The days grow longer, temperatures rise, and children have a little more freedom to play without the routine of school. We feel the urge to take a break from the daily grind and spend some quality time with those we love. We may even feel pressure to do something big—perhaps we’ll travel, or change the landscape in our yards. Most of us could write an extensive list of things we’d like to do, but summer is short.
You can’t do it all, so you need to determine what is most important. Your planner is the ideal tool to help you make the most of your summer. Take a few minutes today to consider how you want the coming weeks to feel. Write your answers to the following four questions in your planner.
What do you hope to create?
Humans are natural creators. It’s in our DNA. Every day we create something, whether it’s a beautiful meal, a deeper relationship, a meaningful memory, or just a mess in the garage. If you’re planning a family vacation, what memories do you hope to make? What sights do you hope to see? Perhaps you have goals for your garden, you’d like to remodel your home, improve your golf game, or simply build a kite with your daughter and see if it will fly. Write these in your planner, and make time for them to happen.
How do you choose to relax?
When you relax is it truly restful? Relaxing can be stressful if you allow it. Often we plan vacations so we can relax, but the trip itself turns out to be so harried, that we wish we had a vacation to rest from our trip. Is there a way to find balance between your relaxing activities and your structured events? You need both to have a fulfilling summer, right? Often the most rewarding feeling you’ll have is when you step back and relax after you’ve done something meaningful—enjoying a tall glass of lemonade on the patio after the work is done.
Hiking is a structured, planned activity that includes both exercise and relaxation. Exerting the effort to climb is great for your heart and lungs, and taking time to stop, enjoy the view, and breathe the cool, crisp mountain air can relax and invigorate your mind. The same can be said for a good round of golf, unless you let your slice get in the way of a good time.
You may choose to take your kids to the swimming pool. Their confidence in the water and ability to swim will determine whether it’s a relaxing experience for you or a gut-wrenching ordeal. You could also spend time with a good book, write memories to share with your grandchildren, or enjoy a cruise. However you decide to relax, remember that if you don’t schedule relaxing activities into your day, they may not happen.
What relationships do you want to develop?
Relationships matter. That’s where the good stuff is. There are few things quite like listening to your grandmother tell stories about her childhood, or listening to your grandchildren tell about their latest adventure. As you’re planning how you’ll spend the next several weeks, consider the power of relationships and the effects that shared events can have on your life.
Imagine what might happen if your children become familiar with their grandfather’s history. What if they come to understand what he struggled to overcome and what he learned from his experiences? Do you think that experience might add to their strength and give them something to lean on when things get hard for them?
Find opportunities to work together with family, neighbors, and friends toward a common goal. Playing together is great, but working together can be even more rewarding. Volunteering in a neighborhood garden, serving in a women’s shelter or soup kitchen, and teaching your skills to the rising generation are a few powerful ways to connect with your community.
How do you want to manage your down time?
It’s easy to find meaning in your busy days. Road trips to national parks, a weeklong adventure, and days filled with volunteer work and dinners with friends, have their own rewards. How can you make your days meaningful if you don’t have anything scheduled?
One great solution is to broaden your experiences. Make regular visits to your local library to read to children. Organize a family book club and talk about some of your favorite books over dinner or Skype. Volunteer to hold babies at a NICU. Decide to tackle a project you’ve been putting off. Pull your camping gear out of the shed. Keep a fishing pole ready, and slip out when the conditions are just right. Dive into a new skill you’ve always wanted to learn. Don’t be afraid to fail. New experiences expand the mind and keep it fresh.
We’re certain that if you plan to create something wonderful, to truly relax, to develop stronger relationships, and find creative ways to manage your down time, you’ll be more than satisfied with your summer. Go over each of these questions with your family and plan as much as you can together so they will all feel invested in the outcome. Most importantly, whatever you do this summer, make it meaningful—after all, summer is short.