sex, money, and miscellany: talking about what matters

ten tips for a relaxing summer

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm

We’re halfway there! Summer is half over. If we run from June to August, July 15 (is that the ides of July?) is the tipping point.

Does that make you feel better, or more frenzied than ever?

When I was in school, summer was relaxing. The whole point was to STOP working like mad and reattach one’s brain, figure out what was fun, learn to swim or ride a bike or climb a tree or go for a walk or milk a cow. SOMETHING. Anything except sitting at a desk, practicing arithmetic and penmanship. It was easy to feel sad when summer started winding down, but there was so much possibility, even in six weeks, that it couldn’t ever be too bad.

With age comes a different cadence, yes. But summer is still not really a great time to work like mad. For one thing, it’s HOT. For another thing, the kids are out of school, and you might get to see them without homework or soccer practice looming. And another thing–there are a handful of skills that you simply cannot practice in winter. Tree climbing. Unicycling. Paddleboarding. Dancing in the rain and splashing in puddles.

You might think these are only skills for the Unserious Non-Grown-Up. You would be wrong.

See, the secret to productivity is relaxation and play. In my ideal world, no one would need productivity as a motivator, but just in case the pleasure of pleasure is not motivation enough, we are more productive when we relax, when we don’t think too hard, and when we play. We actually DO find answers more easily when we “sleep on it”. Or climb a tree on it, or go skinny dipping.

So if you want to have the Best Summer Ever, you need goals. You need organization. You need a plan. And you need to include time to turn off the analysis and laugh, sing off-key, read poetry, watch fireworks, and play with the dog.

Here are ten tips to help:

1) take stock. How are you doing, doing the things you love? How’s the stress-to-joy ratio? If it’s higher than 1:1 (2:1, for example), time for something to change, pronto.

2) If you are not already doing this, pick two things that help you get a clear, peaceful head; things like writing, singing, meditating, walking, gardening. Set aside an hour of your morning, first thing, for them. Give them 30 minutes each. If you are already doing it, pick one to extend to an hour.

3) make a list of 20 things you always wanted to try (cooking Japanese, learning Italian, camping, calculus, model rocketry, guitar lessons) pick one and do it–find a book, take a class, join a MeetUp or Yahoo group to learn more. Get started.

4) remember that more daylight doesn’t have to mean more hours of work. Use timers if necessary to stop work at quitting time.

5) give out compliments freely. Tell the coffee barista, the convenience store clerk, the bus driver when you appreciate what they’re doing. Tell your loved ones you love them, and tell them what you most appreciate. Smiles are contagious.

6) Focus, focus, focus. It’s SO easy to get distracted, between internet and birds singing and pretty water. If you stay on task, you’ll get done faster and get on to the stuff you want to do without feeling guilty. Try the Now Do This utility (shows you ONLY the next thing on your to-do list; you can make different lists, like one for home and one for work, by heading sections with @home, @work, etc) to help you remember what you were doing before your phone rang/dog barked/tea water boiled/co-worker dropped by with a pile of stuff.

7) make it beautiful. Clear off your desk and put a tiny little sculpture or a beautiful stone right in front of you. Put a postcard of beautiful art in your car (or if you have a Beetle, put real flowers in the vase), frame a pretty greeting card, add a couple of throw pillows to your living room. Beauty touches parts of our brains we can’t really get to with hard facts.

8 ) change up your music. You know you’ve listened to the same itunes playlists or radio station every day for the last six months. Make a soundtrack for the life you’re living toward.

9) build in buffers. Sometimes, stuff doesn’t work the way we plan. If you have a to-do list laid out for every one of the next 45 days, give yourself breaks, days off, and chances to follow the vagaries of fate. You don’t want to be so tied to your schedule that taking advantage of a great opportunity stresses you out.

10) connect! Almost everything is better in community. Offer help, ask for assistance, pitch into group projects, volunteer for a worthy cause, and stay open to the great ideas that come from working together. Spend time with friends, get to know neighbors, have a cookout, go to a barn raising! Do something you could not have done alone.

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