Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer planning reality check: work/life RE-balancing!

If you don't plan June, July & August, it's altogether too easy to "wake up" in September wondering how the heck you're going to get back on track and meet your goals by December! These three months aren't a conventional "quarter" in more than one way. I advocate standard quarterly reviews with analysis and course correction, but I think it's time to recommend a special summer supplement as well.

Whether or not you have kids out of school, it's easy to derail in the summer months. I see three main contributing factors:
  • schedule changes and unpredictability- yours, your clients', your colleagues', your vendors'
  • forget spring fever, summer fever shows up on a weekly basis for some of us & it's harder than ever to self-motivate
  • play gets a higher priority; maybe it's the residual effect of all those "what I did on my summer vacation" essays.
Create a summer plan that takes these factors into account and you'll have a better chance of entering September positioned for a strong year end.

So what am I talking about? Let's make it very simple. It's the end of May. Pull out or pull up or print out your monthy calendars for June/July/August.

First- account for the exception items that show up in the summer:

  1. Whether it's weeks or long weekends, block out your vacation time, and create a tickler for your early warning system activities- who do you need to notify? What do you want to reschedule? Is your calendar clear? 
  2. Are you driving your kid to sleep away camp?
  3. Is anyone coming to visit?
  4. Any graduations or special events?
  5. ...
Second, think about any modifications you want to make to your week:
  1. Do you have any unusual early or late day activities to account for? Adding a daily camp drop off or pick up?
  2. What hours and days are you going to work? Do you want to block off an extra half day off? Work late one night? Close the office early on Fridays?
  3. Any summer traditions to make time for? My neighborhood has a rotating "porchfest" every Friday in the summer. I put a few of them on my calendar.
  4. Any additional outdoor activities to add? A bike ride? How about a new tradition- the Tuesday morning kayak?
  5. ...
Lastly, check in with people you deal with on a routine basis. Find out what their vacation plans are and share yours. Be sure that if you have any critical contacts, you've got your summer schedules synchronized!

That's it- a simple little summer planning exercise to add to your standard monthly planning process this week.  Be realistic. You know what you need to get done and, on the other side of the ledger, how much time you'd like to carve out for yourself. Even if you can't take the time off you'd like, you can block out an early day here or there to be sure you've got a little summer in your schedule.

As always, life is short, struggle is optional. AND- in June/July & August, whether it's an impulse ingrained in us from grade school or simply a result of all the summer propaganda we're exposed to, life is supposed to be different. More fun.

Don't let summer happen to you, connect it to the calendar.  If you plan ahead, you'll be much more likely to create the summer work/life balance you want and a great starting point for the year-end stretch.