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Mentally, you kind of have to prepare yourself for the summer, knowing that it won’t be perfect, and it will definitely be messy.

School’s out, the waves are calling…and productivity is plummeting. Ah, summertime! Certainly, summer is a season for rest, but is productivity still possible? How can we plan for a fun, meaningful, and productive summer? Some of our Grace staff weigh in. 

Think One-On-One for Older Kids

Kelly Adkins, Experience Director
As my kids have gotten older, our family has naturally gravitated away from group experiences for the whole fam and moved to more personal interactions that are focused on each person. So while we still do things as a family when we can, and we have traditions and rituals, too, balance has become less about setting aside longer times for everyone and more about stepping into shorter moments beside each other as a couple or with each kid.

That can look like asking a question and then just listening in the car, a quick lunch date when two of us are free, an afternoon of hands-on help to teach the kids how to file taxes or shop for an apartment, or an hour focused around someone’s fave hobby (for example, my daughter is really into doing nails and skincare right now, so for this summer we’ve invented Drugstore Mondays, where we’ll grab a Starbucks and then a couple of new cosmetics for her to play with each week!). I don’t diminish my work in front of them — it’s a gift from God, and it provides for them. But I look for those moments God is prompting me to set it aside for a time and say even to my teen and adult kids that “you’re my focus right now, and mom always has your back.”

Build a Buffer Around Your Vacation

Rick Garrett, Executive Pastor
For years, I wanted to leave town and start vacation as soon as possible. A few years ago, I ended up with a few days at home before and after our actual vacation and I will never go back. It takes me a day or two to fully unplug and a day or two to ramp back up to work. Without the buffer on either side of our family trip, I am distracted from or easily annoyed by my family the first and last few days of the trip as my mind is still thinking about winding down or gearing up for work. I realized I really only had one or two good days with the family. Now I’m able to tie up loose ends and truly shut down work before taking off, and know that I will have a full day to plan and catch up before I jump right back into the swing of things. 

Divide Your Day into Color Zones

Clint Harrison, Oviedo Campus Pastor
Something that’s been really helpful for me is thinking of my day in terms of color zones. I got this from Carey Nieuwhof’s At Your Best. Your freshest time of day is the “green” zone. This is when you should do your most creative work. When you feel yourself burning out, you’re entering the “yellow” zone, and by “red” you’re no longer productive.

Here’s the thing – you kids don’t always need your “green” time. During family vacation, sure, give them all the zones! But when you need to work, be strategic about aligning tasks with the appropriate zones. Do your deep-thinking tasks when you’re “green,” and then go play with the kids when you’re “yellow” or even “red.” You don’t need brain power to throw a frisbee or watch a Marvel movie. Plus, if you keep trying to work while you’re in the “red,” you won’t produce quality work anyway. By thinking this way, I’ve been able to increase productivity and create better rhythms in general. (Another great activity for the “red” zone is exercise. Don’t exercise when you’re fresh and energized; do it when you’re exhausted and stressed and you’ll double productivity.) One other thing to note – not everyone’s “green” zone is the same. My wife can produce really creative work late at night when the kids are in bed, whereas my “green” zone is first thing in the morning. So we help each other out by respecting that time.

Communicate Clear Expectations

Grant Nixon, Winter Garden Campus Pastor
It’s important to remember that during the summer you still have your schedule, but your kids don’t. I find myself getting frustrated with them sometimes – especially during the summer – because my schedule and their lack of schedule are in conflict. So I think it’s important to use really positive language that’s clear and also gracious.

We always try to have something for them to look forward to, and we constantly point them back to that. So in those moments where I really have to get stuff done, I tell them, “I’m not ignoring you. I’m getting this done so that we can do something special later.” You constantly have to communicate the “why” behind your work. “I’m doing this for our family. One of the ways God provides for us is through Mom and Dad’s work. And as soon as I’m finished, we can go do that fun thing.”

Plan a Weekly Family-Fun Day

Ashley Weaver, Orlando Worship Director
At the beginning of my week, I purposefully set aside at least one day when we can do family stuff – go to the springs, SeaWorld, the beach, the park, etc. I’m very big on getting work done first, then I can relax. Because if I don’t, I don’t relax and my mind goes elsewhere. So, I make sure that I get everything done that needs to be set and finalized for a weekend at Grace so that we can enjoy those family days together. My kids look forward to those each week and so do I!

Work in Blocks of Time…and Be Gracious

Kyle Carden, Oviedo Campus Pastor
Since I work primarily from home and do regular, repeated tasks and project-based work, I try – especially in the summer – to work in blocks. Setting aside blocks of time to accomplish tasks allows you to plan to fill some of those blocks with family events that are maybe outside the norm, while maintaining productivity. With our family schedule, these blocks could also include pickup times or regular activities the kids are involved in, as well as special events, trips, etc.

Summer work/family balance for us requires a little bit of grace and expecting things to be a bit hectic at times. Mentally, you kind of have to prepare yourself for the summer, knowing that it won’t be perfect, and it will definitely be messy.

Ideas to add? Drop a comment below and tell us how YOU balance work and family over the summer!

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