In the United States and the rest of the northern hemisphere, the first day of the summer season is the day of the year when the Sun is farthest north (on June 20th or 21st in 2023). This day is known as the Summer Solstice. However, few school-age families have a clue which day that is: the only meaningful start of summer is the day after school finishes for the semester. College students typically have the same ticker e.g. after the last exam each Spring. For others it may be a certain frequency of high temperature readings, a particularly hot day, the first non-business trip out of town, or a particular month such as June or July.
Whenever this season begins for you, I have some humble suggestions for ‘doing’ it well:
- Think one-time, not weekly. Through the year, when scheduling an activity or program, the common question is: “are you free on Tuesdays?” or “how do weeknights work for you?” This is because so much happens on a weekly or monthly basis from September to May, whether it’s a soccer league, pilates classes or a book club. Not so in the summer: for the school families, camps and programs are not weekly, but by the week, that is, a week at a time. But even for those without kids, it is difficult to schedule anything on a weekly basis through July and August. Vacation schedules tend to prohibit it. So don’t think ‘every Thursday evening’ or ‘each Saturday morning’ but rather ‘the first week of June’ or ‘the last half of August.’ Trust me: you’ll be a lot more successful in planning.
- Make a summer calendar. For this reason, your full-page weekly planner will be less helpful and a three-month grid of squares will work better: not details about each week but the big events for each week of the summer, whether you’re planning weeks or weekends. July might look something like this:
1st week – vacation
2nd week – business conference
3rd week – host family member
4th week – planning for Fall
It has been helpful for our family to create a family summer calendar with the big events for each week indicated. It builds enthusiasm for this unique season of the year and helps us all keep on the same page.
- More experiential, less regulated. I like the discipline of the Fall/Winter/Spring seasons, regular patterns of work & play, week in/week out progress on personal or communal goals. You can get a lot done when you put your schedule to it. But this is not the purpose of summer. Summer is for special occasions. Summer is best suited for once/year events: family reunions, camping trips, celebrations, day trips, etc. While most of us continue working through the summer, weekends, weeknights, and special holidays lend themselves to one-off gatherings that the routine of the year may prohibit. You can try to start a diet, new exercise program, or college course in the summer . . . but good luck! For better of for worse, our society has created a season for special occasions; it’s easier to work with it than against it.
- Follow the flow. On that note, each month of the summer has its own feel. Contrary to what you might think, for temperate climates like Maryland, July is NOT the best month for biking, hiking, or sports. It’s very hot. I prefer these activities in May, or even April. July is great for the pool or non-aerobic activities in the shade like picnics. Likewise, don’t expect to get much business networking done in August; most people are out of town that month. Certain things work better in certain months.
- Be satisfied with enough. Because the summer months offer so many options in so many venues, with weather that is most conducive to outdoor life, it can be easy to succumb to FOMO (fear of missing out) and be overwhelmed by everything you DIDN’T do by the end of the summer. I have actually written down specific activities and the # of times I’d like to do them (NOT weekly, by the way), even though they are not yet scheduled. It mediates my expectations.
Summer is either here or almost here, depending on your reference point. So much opportunity deserves careful forethought. Don’t arrive in September wondering what happened to your summer! Plan accordingly. Like, now.
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