Summer Projects: How to pick them, tackle them, and not let them take over your life

You might have noticed I dropped off the (cyber)earth last week. That’s because I’m DONE! My first full book draft — ever! — is officially in the hands of my publisher. Which means it’s not only summer for my kidlets, it’s summer for me, too. Woot!

So, now it’s time for me to relax and enjoy the sunscreen, ice cream and long afternoon walks.

I’d be lying, though, if I said that would be the best summer ever. I’m not a sit-in-a-hammock kind of gal, so I also know I’ll want to do a few things that make the summer not only relaxing, but productive too. Which looks like:

  • Pack my family up for a week away in the mountains.
  • Repaint my upstairs hallway.
  • Reorganize my kids’ clothes for the fall.
  • Write the next 3 chapters for my second book, due in December.

I know I’ll feel good about summer, and refreshed too, if I can wiggle these into the routine somehow. Unless I make some clear goals and invest a little planning, however, I’ll end up having more of a summer breakdown than summer break!

Can you relate?

Ways to make summer projects fun and functional:

Pick a keeper: What is reasonable this week? This month? By the end of summer? What vacations, day-trips, and activities are planned for the kids or for the whole family? Pick the project (or two or three) that will work with the schedule and leave you a little margin for fun and ice cream jaunts.

Give it clear time boundaries: the project happens certain days of the week, certain hours of a day or certain weeks of the summer. Crystal, a friend from the Facebook Page mentioned that she plans projects for weeks her kids are in vacation Bible school or summer day camps so she can focus, finish, and move on to play time. Picking the right time and putting it on the calendar gives you freedom to focus when it’s time, and NOT think about it while you’re running on the beach or having a summer movie marathon with your family.

Create bite-sized goals: Follow the HDTV work-hard-work-focused model. Know what stores you’ll need to visit for supplies, the parts of the project that will need more than one day, and the ones that are no-kids-home non-negotiables (glues, solvents, and other high-fume, big-possible-mess tasks). Be reasonable. If estimating time isn’t a strength, check the plan and timeline with someone who’s good at that. I’m a classic “what do you mean, I can’t gut and re-build the bathroom in a day?” gal, so I’ll check my lists with the husband before starting.

Hold a family meeting: sit down with the family and let them know the plan. Get their feedback. When they sign off on your project because they know how long each day you’re working on it, and what they can expect to do together afterward if they’re nice about it (yes, bribery works), you’ll spend less time fighting for minutes here and there to get it done, and you’ll reduce the stress to manageable levels.

Do it: Commit, follow the plan, and finish. Even if it’s not perfect or looking like the HDTV Home Makeover team did it for you. Then do a debrief with the family. Take a look and see if it was done in a way that was still fun for you and them. If not, what would need to change to allow projects to coexist with summer fun better?

What projects are you hoping to get done this summer? What will it take to get those done in a leave-space-to-breathe kind of way?


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  1. Mothering From Scratch says

    {Melinda} Congratulations, Laurie!! That is so awesome! 🙂 I dread
    summer. Everyone is at home and I’ve got work to do! I’ve learned some
    things that have helped me, but it is definitely the most challenging
    season of the year at my house. I agree with you … being realistic and setting small goals really does help.

    • says

      Thanks, Melinda!! I’m so excited. And especially because I get to go to family camp all next week with no deadlines hanging over me now. I hear you on the challenging season summer is. Getting some help in the home has really helped. She’s here 10-15 hours a week and it gives me a chance to think! 🙂