6 simple steps to your best summer ever

The stereotype of a teacher sitting by the pool sipping margaritas is pretty far from reality for most educators. Summertime for most of us includes second jobs, professional development trainings, and all those household tasks that didn’t get done during the school year.

How can you get everything done AND have time for rest and rejuvenation before fall? How can you plan it and pace it all out so you don’t get overwhelmed?

The answer is actually pretty straightforward: you need to have a really clear vision for your life and your work, and a plan for how you align your day to day choices with that vision.

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Why summer break always seems to go by too quickly

See which of these productivity-stealers sounds familiar to you:

  • You have an unrealistic perception of how much you can accomplish in a few short weeks
  • The less structured daily schedule leads to unintentional breaks and diversions that steal time without you realizing it
  • You’re so exhausted that recuperating from the school year leaves you with far less energy than you’d hoped for
  • You feel obligated to do things for other people that aren’t really moving your life forward in the direction you want, and have no time for following through on your own priorities
  • Many tasks relegated to summer break are so unpleasant that you can’t bear to use your vacation time on them and just keep procrastinating over and over again

Fortunately, ALL of those issues can be solved by having a clear vision and plan for the way you want to use your summer.

The best part? You can get your vision and plan together in about 30-45 minutes. Here are the 6 steps to make it happen.

6 simple steps to the best summer ever

1. Create an end-of-summer vision.

What do you want your life to look like when summer’s over?

I want you to write down your answer to this question. Be realistic about how much you can accomplish in a few short weeks with your current energy levels and commitments.

Remember, it’s always better to underplan and feel good about achieving above and beyond your goal than it is to overplan and feel like you were unsuccessful.

Here are some ideas for end of summer visions that might be realistic for you:

  • 3x week exercise routines in place so you’ll have more energy and be in better shape
  • Meal prep routines in place so school night dinners will be less hectic
  • Easy-to-maintain organizational systems at home so you have less tidying up to do each day
  • All family wellness checkups complete so you have fewer appointments after school
  • First quarter lesson plans sketched out so your fall workload is lightened
  • Lots of great memories with the people you love so you feel more comfortable devoting long hours to school work in August and September

Pick as many or as few things as you’d like, but be realistic. Focus on the things that will make the biggest impact on your stress level and workload.

2. Figure out your priorities.

Rather than creating a mile-long to-do list, section off your list by high, medium, and low priorities. The highest priority goals are things which will make the End of Summer Vision a reality. Add other things you have planned or would like to do in the lower priority sections. You can continue to add to the list whenever you think of new things throughout the summer.

3. Write non-negotiable dates on your calendar so you can see your busy times at a glance.

Any trips, appointments, or other set-in-stone events should be written on your calendar. This will prevent you from realizing on the last day of summer break that you never got around to something that was very important. It will also keep you from being overwhelmed because you scheduled too many time-consuming tasks too close together. Additionally, the calendar will help you ensure you have time for rest and relaxation in between your most demanding, productive days.

4. Choose a theme or focus for each week of the summer, based on your highest summer priorities.

If you’re already taking a trip to visit your extended family on July 12-15, why not just take that whole week off and make it a family time? That can be your focus for the week: taking a true break from work and enjoying time with family.

If you have a doctor’s appointment on July 27th and the garage door replacement scheduled for July 28th, why not make your focus for that week on Appointments and Repairs that week, and schedule other similar tasks in for that time period?

You can have more than one focus each week if needed: the idea is just to batch similar tasks so you can get yourself in the appropriate mindset and focus on them without feeling pulled in too many different directions.

This is the last step you need to do for right now. You can relax while knowing that the most important things WILL get done this summer, and everything will happen at a manageable pace.

5. At the start of each week, look at your focus and create a to-do list.

If your focus for an upcoming week is back to school prep, break that large project down into actionable steps. Decide what you will do each day so you’re working at a manageable pace and not taking on too many challenging things at once.

Write those tasks in your to-do list for the week so they are scheduled into specific slots for the day. Be sure to pull from your list of summer priorities to make sure you’re moving yourself toward your-end of summer vision. Do not overschedule yourself: leave margin so that you don’t get stressed out when the unexpected happens.

6. Allow your Weekly To-Do List to determine how you use the bulk of your time.

When you wake up in the morning, look at your to-do list and see what you have planned for morning, afternoon, and evening. Be flexible as your priorities shift and other things come up, but make sure you are doing the high priority items.

Cross out anything that doesn’t get done and move it to the next day’s list –there’s no problem with that whatsoever, as long you’re getting through the majority of your tasks and staying on track with your overall pacing.

Your end-of-summer vision is what will guide the way: at least every other week and make sure it’s aligned with how you’re spending your time on a daily basis. If you’re regularly making progress toward creating the life you want to have when school starts again, you can feel good about each and every day.

6 simple steps to your best summer ever

The 30-45 minutes you spend planning your summer will pay off big time!

If this process seems overwhelming or awfully rigid for a summer break, I assure you it’s much simpler than it sounds, and it will actually give you more freedom and spontaneity because you’ll have the peace of knowing that your most important priorities have scheduled time allotted to them.

I complete this process myself four times a year to plan for the upcoming season. It generally takes me about 30-45 minutes to create my vision, list of priorities, and calendar with the theme for each week. From a productivity standpoint, this is by far the most important 45-minute block of time for the season.

The system is what helps me ensure that the way I use my time is aligned with how I want my life to be and what’s most important.

It keeps me from spending time each day wondering what I should be doing or if I’m on track to meet long term goals.

It prevents me from wasting time on things that really aren’t that important to me.

And, it motivates me to push past procrastination and do things I don’t feel like doing, because I know the vision that the task is helping me accomplish. I know that if I don’t keep to my approximate schedule, it’s going to throw off all the other focuses for each week, and make it take much longer to reach my End of Summer Vision. That could possibly interfere with the next set of goals that I have for my End of Fall Vision.

Because my vision is so important to me–it’s what I really want my life to look like a few weeks or months from now–I don’t want to delay my goals. My vision is what motivates me to show up and face that to-do list each day, and gives me a sense of satisfaction even when doing menial or tedious tasks.

If you want ready-to-use forms, checklists, calendars, to-do lists, and more to help you maximize your summer and completing this kind of visioning and planning process every season, you want to be a part of The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club.

What I shared here is just part of one week’s worth of materials for the club, and every Saturday, members get other tips, tricks, and daily hacks to help them take their weekends back. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s truly life-changing for those who are willing to show up and do the work.  

We’ll be accepting new members between June 26-July 6th, and I’ll be doing a free live masterclass on June 26th called 5 Summer Secrets to a Stress-Free Fall.

Just get on the list to be notified when you can sign up for the free training and/or the club, and you won’t miss out on a thing. Or, learn more here.

Have a fantastic summer!

Truth for Teachers podcast: a weekly 10 minute talk radio show you can download and take with you wherever you go!  A new episode is released each Sunday to get you energized and motivated for the week ahead.

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katie May 15, 2016 at 9:12 pm

Hey Angela, will you be sharing about updates or additions to the 40 Hour Work Week Club to help current members decide if they’re going to re-subscribe? I’ve loved the club, but also need to be mindful with what money I spend on work resources, so it would be helpful to know how much content will be new and any other information to help make that decision. I’m not on Facebook, could be you’ve already shared this info there. Thanks!


2 Angela Watson May 16, 2016 at 7:09 am

Hi, Katie! The club is just a one year program, so you actually can’t resubscribe. You’ll be considered a graduate when your 12 months are up. You’ll keep your access to all the club resources (including the Facebook group) indefinitely. I will be offering a special new membership opportunity ONLY for graduates, though, based on what you all tell me you need more support with on a continual basis. That will be an option for graduates, if they’d like, but it will be completely different and separate from the club. I’ll share more details with you as your graduation period gets closer. :)


3 Charlotte May 19, 2016 at 6:49 am

Hi Angela,
I love your podcasts! Thank you for all your wisdom and truths that you share with us. I can’t wait to start planning my summer! I want to join the bookclubs and the 40 hour club but I’m not on Facebook. Is there any other way to participate in the groups?


4 Angela Watson May 19, 2016 at 6:59 am

Hi, Charlotte! I recommend creating a Facebook group just to use for these types of interactions. You don’t have to use a profile picture or even your full name (lots of people use nicknames and such so no one can search for them.) You don’t have to friend anyone or use the Facebook account for anything other than the groups. That way your privacy is protected but you don’t miss out. :)


5 Mark Eichenlaub May 20, 2016 at 10:09 am

Brilliant Angela. It’s “that” time of year again and this is the time teachers need to revisit this. I am going to send this post out to some people.


6 Pam Byrne June 11, 2016 at 7:37 pm

Hi Angela,

Your tips for organizing summer are terrific. One suggestion I might add is instead of writing “to do” lists, which can be daunting, write “ta da” lists of tasks accomplished each day. Sometimes I underestimate what I finished each day, but writing lists makes me feel more encouraged about my progress. Thanks for sharing your great ideas!



7 Angela Watson June 12, 2016 at 4:52 pm

I love the idea of a “ta da” list! Thanks for sharing. I agree that it’s very validating to have a list of what you’ve accomplished each day, particularly when a lot of unexpected interruptions crop up. That way, even if you don’t get to the planned work, you can see exactly where your time went, and hopefully feel good about it!


8 Alecia June 12, 2016 at 10:26 pm

Love this article! I just finished my first year of teaching, and I want to use my summer to REST AND be productive (2 grad classes, moving, and prepping for next year…yikes!). I’m considering doing the 40-hour-week club, but I was wondering if it would be appropriate for 2nd year teachers? Or for slightly more seasoned teachers who have more of a foundation of their routine and understanding of their needs?



9 Angela Watson June 13, 2016 at 9:05 am

Thanks, Alecia! We have lots of new teachers in the club, including some brave souls who took this on during their FIRST year! Many said they were glad they found the club early in their teaching career because it’s helped them create strong habits from the start (rather than muddling through things on their own and then having to re-learn new habits later.)


10 JOHN DSOUZA June 17, 2016 at 11:50 pm

Thanks a ton Angela… for sharing such wonderful and productive activities for summer…


11 Angela Watson June 20, 2016 at 9:12 pm

So glad you found it helpful!


12 Donna June 18, 2016 at 4:17 pm

Hello Angela,
I have enjoyed your posts an am considering the club. Like many teachers, my weeks have averaged 50 to 70 hours. I have taught for 36 years. I am not sure how many more I will teach. Do you think that it is worth doing this late in my career. Besides putting in many hours, I also tend to spend a bit too much on teacher-related materials.
Thanks for your great post on summer planning.


13 Angela Watson June 20, 2016 at 9:11 pm

Absolutely, Donna! I’d say that the majority of our members are experienced teachers, and many, many of them have 10-30+ years under their belts. Quite a few are just a year or two away from retirement but don’t want to end their careers feeling burned out and exhausted. In fact, I think that veteran teachers are probably in need of the club just as much as newer teachers, because the profession has changed so much. What teachers are required to do now is nothing like what we were signing up to do twenty plus years ago. Trying to stay on top of all the new demands is very challenging and I think the club offers a really critical support system.


14 Rebecca Tabb June 18, 2016 at 9:18 pm


I sat down in May and mapped out what I wanted to accomplish each week during my summer (I.e. One week was to research info on my national boards, a few weeks are devoted simply to family time, etc). I am LOVING this method and already feel like I am having the most productive summer ever so far. Thank you for this post it’s making a big difference for me!


15 Angela Watson June 20, 2016 at 9:07 pm

That’s fantastic, Rebecca! So glad this resonated with you. It’s so awesome to hear how this is working.


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