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.
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.
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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.
Have a fantastic summer!