I’m usually a week or two late in turning the kitchen calendar to a new month. In our over-scheduled lives full of overwhelming to-do lists and the pressure to do it all, transitions tend to sneak up on us. They make us feel like we’re constantly playing catch up and life is racing past us.
Is there a cure to this rushing around? There’s a phrase I came across that sadly describes most of my days in this season of life with little kids: the tyranny of the urgent. It’s the habit of focusing on the urgent things that pop up in our lives, the everyday tasks and real-life situations that, though not inherently bad, distract us from the important and meaningful.
While we can’t ignore the meals that need to be made, the diapers that need to be changed, or the sibling arguments that need to be resolved, setting your intentions ahead of time will help you deal with the urgent while still focusing on the important. That’s what a summer routine can do for you.
On that note, here’s your step-by-step guide to creating a summer routine that fits your unique life and will bring purpose and joy as you go about your sunny summer days.
Step 1: Choose Your One Thing
If you’re an overachiever like me, this step might make you break out in hives. But it’s the most important step in the process of creating a life-giving summer routine for two reasons. One, you are most likely reading this because you want to be intentional about your summer and savor all that it brings. If you put too much on your plate and have too many expectations of yourself, it’s likely you’ll experience frustration, burn out, and rush through the season like you have in the past.
Two, this step forces you to really examine what matters to you right now. You can’t just list off a bunch of random things you want to accomplish and call it a day. If you want to make this a summer to remember (for good reasons), narrow down your purpose to focus on one specific thing.
For example, I want to conquer my garage, revamp my laundry room, start writing an ebook, and launch an in-depth study of Matthew (including the lofty feat of memorizing the Sermon on the Mount). In my season of life, with work, kids, writing, and ministry, those goals are honestly more than enough for the whole year, let alone this summer. I’m tired of my own high expectations and idolizing of productivity causing me stress. So my one thing this summer is simply to clean out my garage. I will no doubt be tempted to do more, but this is my anchor that will rein me in.
Your one thing could be a project, an event, or investing in a relationship (like finally hosting that friend brunch you’ve been thinking about for months). Once you’ve decided on your one thing that will make your summer feel like a raging success, what about the rest of your family? Get your kids, spouse, or others you do life with, to pick something of utmost importance to them this season so, at the end of summer, everyone feels like they experienced the summer they hoped for.
Here’s what it looks like for the Hubbard clan:
Chris: Implement a regularly scheduled reading habit
Pamela: Whip our garage into shape and create an organization/storage system that can be sustained all year
Juliette: Have a beach day
Genevieve: She’s just along for the ride, but she’d probably choose a walk to the park
If you’re struggling to narrow down your one thing from your long list of ideas, I’ve created an Intentional Summer Starter Kit that will give you what you need to have a purposeful summer.
Step 2: Give it a Date
I can’t tell you how long my garage clean out goal has been on my Powersheets tending list. Unfortunately, since it’s not as high a priority as getting my work done or feeding my family, it keeps getting pushed to the background. But whenever I give something a date on the calendar, I up the chance that I will make progress.
This will look different depending on what your one thing is. If it’s an event, like a summer road trip, it might be easier to give it a date because it’s a one-time thing. If it’s an ongoing project, you might need to schedule an hour a week throughout the summer or find a babysitter for a full day and just plow through it. Make sure everyone’s one thing gets a dedicated place on your summer calendar.
It always feels like summer slips away so quickly, so the quicker you get your top priorities on the calendar, the more likely they are to actually happen!
I’ve included some fun calendars for you to use in the Intentional Summer Starter Kit. Get your hands on it by filling out your info in the form in step 1!
Step 3: Fill In the Cracks
Have you ever heard the metaphor of the jar of rocks? If you have a jar and fill it with small pebbles and sand, you won’t be able to fit the big rocks in. But if you put the big rocks in first, you’ll be amazed at how the sand and pebbles still fit when you pour them in later. Step 2 is about getting the big rocks, or the most important things, in your jar. Step 3 is about the sand and pebbles, or all the regular, repetitive tasks and activities that need to happen in your life.
Here’s what it looks like. Make a master list of all your daily to-dos: meals, errands, rest time, piano practice, swim lessons, chores, screen time, etc. Then look at your weeks. Fill in the scheduled items first, then brainstorm a system for all the other things.
Some of you might like to spend an hour a day on chores, while others might want to dedicate a whole day to get the house in shape, freeing up the rest of the week for other activities. You could even establish theme days to provide structure, like Library Mondays, Treat Tuesdays, Water Wednesdays, etc. Find dedicated spots for every task so you can rest easy, knowing things will get done.
If you want to prevent hearing, “what are we doing today” every day this summer, communicate your summer routine with visual aids. Whether it’s a massive calendar on the wall or a daily checklist written on a chalkboard, kids do better when they can see what’s coming (and so do we).
Step 4: Guard Your White Space
It is summer, after all. Once you’ve filled in everyone’s one thing and made sure to make room for life’s essentials, don’t be tempted to fill in every empty square on your calendar. Leave some margin so if someone gets sick or you get an impromptu invite to an event, you have the freedom to go along with it. Also, don’t schedule your days down to the minute. Create a workable pattern to your days and allow for flexibility. That way, if you hit traffic while doing errands or a task takes you longer than you thought, it won’t throw your whole day off.
Step 5: Help Yourself Out
Just as writing out a schedule will free up your brain space, creating systems will save you from rushing around or forgetting things. For example, make sure you always have fixings for hamburgers or tacos on hand for the days you decide to stay at the pool later than planned.
If the park is one of your frequent stops, create a park kit for your car. Include a blanket, some sidewalk chalk, water guns, bubbles, balls, sunscreen, and sand toys. That way you just need to grab your kids, some water bottles, and snacks, and be on your way. By investing some intentional forethought, you free yourself up to have fun and relax in the moment.
Step 6: Have a Back-Up Plan
Along the same lines as creating systems to prevent stress, come up with a list of activities or places to go. When the kids are restless, you just need to get out, or the weather isn’t cooperating, having a plan b will give you an easy way to change direction. You won’t have to jump online to google activities in your area or wait for friends to get back to you about their schedule. Here are some ideas of lists to create:
Write down all the events the library offers and dates and times of farmer markets or other local events.
Brainstorm independent play ideas for your kids, like reading, crafts, activity books, puzzles, or board games.
Research local parks and trails.
Think of things you could do at home together with items you already have on hand. Maybe you could cuddle up for a movie morning with popcorn or write letters to friends and family who live far away.
Step 7: Disconnect to Connect
Regardless of whether you call it a Sabbath, a social media free day, or a day off from looking at your to-do list, we were created to rest. Our souls need space so they can find renewal and rejuvenation.
Think about what gives you life and make sure your summer includes plenty of it. In the same way you chose your one thing for the whole summer, write down some daily and weekly moments that will anchor your days and remind you of what matters most. Mine are to have one social media free day a week and spend twenty minutes a day curled up with a good fiction book. Fill yourself up so you have more to give.