My kids had their first day of summer camp on Monday. As an employed parent, I always find it hard to greet the summer schedule with the same enthusiasm as my kids. I’d like to think of summer as a more relaxed time, but truthfully it feels just as hectic.
I don’t know if the morning application of sunscreen and bug spray, combined with early camp pick up, wet bathing suits and towels is any better than supervising homework during the school year. Throw in summer reading challenges, daily drilling of math facts and a sultry commute and you might be asking yourself, “Are we having fun yet?”
To figure out how to squeeze the most joy out of the short weeks of summer, I consulted Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. I subscribe to Laura’s newsletter and always find it packed with practical advice and tips for those of us who are occasionally prone to wasting valuable time. (Ever find yourself sitting around the campfire roasting s’mores on Labor Day wondering where the summer went?)
By Laura’s calculations, the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day offers about 1000 hours of personal time even if you work 40 hours a week and sleep 8 hours a night. If you’re like me, and think summer doesn’t really start until July 4, you’re still OK.
So how can you maximize this time? By planning your leisure activities.
“I don’t believe in planning life to the minute,” Laura told me recently. “But we live in a distracted world. If you don’t plan enjoyable activities for your leisure time, you will lose those hours to email, chores, television, puttering around the house, etc. All of those activities can fill available space. Then you’ll wonder where your summer went.”
Don’t go overboard. Laura suggests scheduling a few fun activities a week and maybe three on weekends. Of course you can be spontaneous, but make a list of the things you’d like to do this summer: pick fresh berries, go hiking, take in an outdoor concert, read trashy novels on the beach, do a tour of neighborhood ice cream shops with the kids. Ask members of your family to make a list, too.
“Repeat this mantra: Do it anyway,” Laura says. Even if you’re tired and feel like it’ll be easier to plop on the couch, take a walk under the stars. Have a picnic in the backyard. Drink fruit smoothies for dinner and use the time you would have spent cooking and cleaning for a family bike ride.
That’s how memories are made.
Do you have a favorite family summer activity? How do you make use of the longer days?