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How to Do One Thing this Summer

kids' summer schedule planningIn the Northern Hemisphere, it’s warm and the days are long. The kids are out of school. We hope for leisurely days, hours spent outside, lots of reading, cooking on the grill, and hopefully a bit of actual time off — whether that means a staycation, an exotic getaway, or something in between.

Unfortunately, we still have to get crap done maintain some level of productivity.

If, like me, you work from a home office and have cobbled together a variety of childcare options for the next two months, your schedule may be turned on its head. Those with fulltime jobs outside the house must also navigate seasonal schedule changes. With the load of juggling that summer requires, it can seem near impossible to get through even a few things on your daily task list — despite the extra hours of sunshine. On top of your workload, you still have to maintain a vague semblance of functionality on the home front, keep everyone fed and clothed, and serve as cruise director. So we shoehorn the necessities into as few hours as possible in order to get the kids to the pool or go for a hike or spend some time working in the garden.

As you already know — all too well — when there’s a time crunch, the first thing to go is the stuff that matters only to you. Creative work, personal practices, personal care. The things you care about but that no one else particularly notices. There may be an indirect effect, as in, if you’re doing your creative work and meditating every morning you’re nicer to be around (as opposed to when you skip those things for too many days in a row and you morph into a raving lunatic get a little grouchy). But on the whole, these are the things that directly impact only one person when ignored: you.

morning freedom reminderDecide on One Thing that you’re going to focus on during the next two months. This could be a creative practice, such as writing or drawing for 30 minutes every day, or it could be that you’d like to complete a specific project during this timeframe. You might decide that your One Thing is a midsummer artist’s date; four hours on a Saturday afternoon to visit a museum by yourself, browse in a bookstore, or sit outside with an iced soy latte while you journal. Maybe you want to save one evening every week to enjoy that pile of magazines that never get read. Or you might be pulled to the self-care category: Perhaps you’d like to do yoga at home every morning. Whatever it is, pick One Thing that is important only to you, and claim it.

Can you pick more than One Thing? Of course. But One Thing, if chosen wisely, is accessible and doesn’t spawn overwhelm. Set yourself up for success. Make your One Thing something that is exciting and doable; realistic while pushing yourself just enough to feel your muscles stretching and strengthening. (I don’t recommend committing to write an 80K-word novel this summer, for example, unless your kids go to overnight camp for two months and you’re barring the door at a remote cabin. You get the idea.)

What’s my One Thing? At present my creative practice is rock solid (I haven’t missed my 500-word daily quota in more than six months), so I chose something that supports “focus,” one of my three words for 2013. I decided to enjoy my mornings and evenings without the distraction of social media and e-mail. This means no facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest, or e-mail before 9:00 am or after 7:00 pm. Not on my iPhone, not on my laptop. When I adhere to this boundary, I avoid getting sucked into the vortex and have more time for things that matter. Social media is a amazing tool for connectivity — and I manage social media accounts for several clients, so actually get paid to be on facebook, ha ha — but on the personal front, idle social media usage that too easily too easily turns into an hour of wasted time. So the ban is essential — framed as something positive (which it is) as opposed to deprivation.

evening freedom reminderThe three steps to ensure that you do your One Thing:

  1. Put a stake in the ground: Write your One Thing in your calendar or daily schedule, as appropriate. If you have a project goal, decide how much time you’re going to devote to this work on a daily or weekly basis and add it to your calendar as you would an appointment.
  2. Create accountability: Since you already know how easy it is to skip out on what matters only to you, accountability is essential. Share your One Thing here as a comment. Then come back at the end of August and tell us how it went.
  3. Establish reminders: Write down your One Thing on sticky notes and place them in obvious locations around your house. Use reminders on your phone. Or use an app just for this purpose. I’m using the app Intention, which allows you to create visual reminders to keep you on track (the images that accompany this post are from the app; available for iPhone and iPad). The combination of intention with positive visuals is powerful. (For the record, I’m not a paid spokesperson.)

So pick your One Thing, follow the three steps, and enjoy the next two months.

I look forward to seeing what you chose for your One Thing, and supporting you in your success!


12 Comments Post a comment
  1. I shall commit to daily journaling time, not just work-related writing.

    July 3, 2013
    • Good for you, Mary — a great daily practice. An extra round of applause for being the first to jump in! 🙂

      July 3, 2013
  2. I am going to phone one friend every day. Not send a text message, but an honest-to-goodness call.

    July 3, 2013
    • Love this, ginjuh!

      July 5, 2013
    • I actually had the same feelings about technology and decided to put away Christmas cards in favor of writing a snail male birthday card for each of my closet friends and our nieces and nephews. I know that sounds like…well shouldn’t you have been doing that all along.. but seriously everyone is so connected it almost seems “out of style” to send a real birthday card.
      I’m dipping into my creativity by using my own “nature photographs” and creating my own cards. It’s a way of reaching out and letting the younger generation know that there is a world outside of the computer.
      Thanks again for the post.

      July 5, 2013
  3. This post is a really good reminder. I find that I’ve been running pillar to post lately, and while I intellectually know that’s not sustainable, I’m doing it anyway.

    July 3, 2013
  4. I will join in volunteer activities on late of July. It’s a good activities and good chance for me to help another people 🙂

    July 3, 2013
  5. I’ve been stagnant in my writing because I want to have a goal.. a project… and I keep thinking if I allow myself some free time from writing I will find that one special project… a short story to write… or conjure up in my head… a book to plan… a poem… no matter how trite or small… and so I keep putting off the journaling.. And sometimes when I journal it’s all about the emotions… it all seems to trite… I guess I’m hiding by my fear and need of direction. Thanks for the post.

    July 4, 2013
    • Linda, it can be tough hanging out in that place of “finding.” For me, a daily word count quota is the solution. Moves the focus to output and lessens the grip of perfectionism. You can use a quota even while you’re figuring out exactly what your project is. Give yourself permission to write drivel if that’s what it takes: 500 words of drivel are far more important than no words at all.

      Good luck! xo

      July 5, 2013
  6. Oh Miranda, I know what an uphill climb summer can be with kids and stuff and plans and work and the heat…Doing One New Thing A Day is something I have posted about on Laundry Line Divine. I love your idea here to do one new thing for the summer. Here is to your great leadership! And here is a link to my post. xo S

    July 18, 2013

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