Ah, the so-called “lazy days” of summer. I love summertime, especially here along the coast. The beach beckons, the days lengthen and there’s an aura of fun and relaxation.
However, summer also usually means that school is out of session. Thus, for those of us writers with children (or grandchildren) in our homes 24/7, it also means that our established writing routines tend to disappear between June and August.
As an author and book coach, it’s a challenge for me to work at full capacity in the summer. It’s also difficult to not feel a bit guilty no matter what I do. If I spend time working, I’m spending time away from my kids. If I spend time with my kids, I’m not working my business to bring in necessary income.
So I strive to seek balance. Instead of distraction-free mornings devoted to writing, I write when possible. This morning, for example, I’ve written in spurts between my youngest reading aloud to me and before I made a late breakfast for everyone. In the afternoon, I sought two solid hours of uninterrupted time before heading out for the evening. Now that they are in bed, I’m staying up late to write some more and work on other areas of my business.
Is it a perfect setup? No, especially since my office is in my living room, which means that I often have to write while tuning out a cartoon on the television or escape to the front porch and deal with passing traffic and neighbors’ outdoor activities.
Do I get frustrated that I don’t get more done? Frequently.
Yet I also don’t regret this arrangement. I work from home for the primary reason of being there for my kids. It’s a privilege that many moms who work outside the home wish they could experience. Money comes and goes, but I have this limited opportunity to make lasting memories and plant important truths in my kids’ lives. This includes teaching them about the value of work.
So, through much trial and error and learning from productivity experts such as Carrie Wilkerson and Michael Hyatt, I’ve come to recognize that to remain productive at any time of year (and especially during the summer), it’s all about understanding and implementing the following:
Create a to-do list for each day
Without a written daily action plan, you will probably experience the frustration of moving from one impromptu activity to another, ultimately winding up with no real work done at the end of the day. Avoid this worst-case scenario by creating a list of action items and then place it where you will see it throughout the day; use it as a visible and frequent reminder of what you need to accomplish.
Prioritize your workload
With your to-do list in hand, consider what has to get done in what order. My priority today is writing and publishing this blog post. Maybe for you it’s to write a certain word count or to complete a chapter of your book. Once your most important item is complete, move on to the next item on your list.
Work a modified schedule
I’ve already discussed this earlier, but get creative here. Where can you fit in 15-30 minutes to write? Maybe you can get up earlier, stay up later or work while the kids watch a movie. One summer when my boys were really young, a friend and I worked out an arrangement that we called a “kid swap.”
I knew that I required large segments of uninterrupted writing time for the book that I was ghostwriting, so she watched my two kids one or two days a week for the summer and I, in turn, watched her two kids one or two days a week.
It didn’t cost me a dime and it allowed me to complete my book on time, with the added benefit of the boys playing with friends rather than getting bored with just each other.
Communicate your writing needs with the people in your home
Tell the kids (or spouse or visitors) that you need some uninterrupted writing time that day and state when. Then it’s up to you to follow through.
Go to a room and close the door and don’t peek out until your designated time is up. If you don’t honor your writing time, they won’t either.
I have to admit, this one’s hard for me when it comes to not spending time with visitors. I might only get to see them once a year and want to spend every possible moment with them. However, my guests have always understood my need to work for an hour or two – and they also appreciate the ability to have their own down time to rest or explore a bit on their own.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
If you don’t reach your goal for the day, it’s not the end of the world. The important thing to remember is that
Writing something is better than writing nothing.
Is this an exhaustive list? No; I’m sure you could probably add to it (feel free to share your recommendations in the comments!). But it’s what I’ve personally found to be useful.
Now the question is: What will you do with this information? I encourage you to implement these action steps to enjoy your summer and be more productive.