In my blog post earlier this week, I mapped out a plan for six strategies to help stretch these rich, July days of summer. The first of these six, outlined in the previous post, was about staying in the present tense, without the tenseness, of course.
It’s only been a few days, and I’m glad to report this short-range planning strategy has been helpful to me so far. I’ve walked each day since Sunday. I didn’t do the no-music-listen-to-the-birds thing; I was correct—that’s way too advanced for me just yet. Besides, I’m not an avid bird lover, so that particular plan might never make it to my stretch list. I did choose my walking music more carefully and I made smarter choices about how and when to focus on work.
I’m continuing to focus on the present, not scheduling things beyond this weekend, and looking forward to a lovely 4th of July. Hmmm. If one is really technically only in the present, is it contraindicated to look forward to something? I suppose so long as I’m not distracted from the present, deciding I’ll wear my flag scarf for the parade is a viable summer stretch strategy all on its own. Sadly, I don’t get a lot of call for that scarf, so taking it out for a spin is an occasion not to be missed.
I’m now ready to integrate the second stretch strategy, that of stretching the days—emphasis on the word days. This one is tougher, at least for me. By both nature and habit, I’m a notorious night owl. I was that tenth-grader who didn’t start her outline until well past eleven on the night before it was due. I was also the lone design student still sanding her wood sculpture well into the same night it was supposed to be lacquered. I clearly should’ve researched the drying time of paint when others were also in the studio to enlighten me. I didn’t, and my wise professor was brilliant enough to let me discover the folly of my ways independently, sticky orange lacquer, and all. Mr. G. was yet another powerful teacher who changed my life, even if not my sleep patterns.
Nighttime has always been my prime time. These days, with such an active company and a busy home life, I tend to deploy some very finely honed nocturnal habits to stretch my days. Long after my family is settled and my team has stopped emailing for the night, I begin to focus on my own work. As a result, I know whodunit in most episodes of Rockford, Kojak, and Columbo. These familiar companions provide background noise in my day-stretching wee hours. Other than feeling somewhat exhausted, I do love late night work time. I get organized, make lists, design, and do research. I’m extremely productive. Ironically, the one thing that I can’t seem to do enough of at night is—get enough sleep.
Trying to stretch the days of summer is like dangling a shiny light in front of a night owl like me. I so like that my family has less structure, that it’s lighter later, and that there’s so much to do outside, from counting steps to lightning bugs. Summer is actually a terrible time for someone like me to stretch the days AND get more sleep. There are so many delightful summer temptations to keep one up at night—in a good way. But, sleep is really important, so I’ve decided to work on this as my second summer stretch strategy. Sleep fits into my stretch plan because being awake even a little less each day might actually help me to be present a little more.
So, I’m turning over a new summer leaf. I’m going to sleep earlier, which, sadly should be easy to do since I’m awake so late typically. I do plan to take baby steps on this one. I’m starting by shifting my time awake, not shortening it. With our new Back-to-School lines launching and holiday planning in full swing, this is no time to work less. I need more time, not less, to attempt to get it all done on schedule.
To stretch my summer days, I will—
- Wake up by 6:30 (groan) and switch off the light by 11:30. (OK, midnight. I am a realist.)
- Incorporate being more present, thanks to a little more sleep.
- Catch a 20-minute walk in the middle of the workday and walk to and from the train.
- Complete important communication work early—meetings, approvals, posts, and emails—in 42-minute time blocks.
- Most importantly, let the reality of summer “time” stretch my urgency, too.
This last one again comes from teachers. We all learned that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It wasn’t built in one summer either. Teachers innately know that progress and change take time and doing one’s best work requires refinement, revision, and rest. Stretching summer means rethinking and recalibrating our own urgencies.
As an example, we’re creating a new executive functioning product. We’d planned to release it today, but discovered important new questions for our supplier. While we’d agreed to release today, it’s the day before the July 4thweekend. That artwork will sit until Tuesday. So we decided to stretch our work time, ensure we get the right answers with less urgency, and release the files first thing Tuesday. We won’t lose time; we’re using it better, working with the cadence of summer “time’s” July 4th schedule.
So, my summer holiday weekend cadence includes sleeping a little sooner, waking a little earlier, and focusing on the present. If any of these ideas stretches you, please comment below. If you have other ideas, are also a night owl, or can enlighten me further, I’m ready to stretch. I’m even looking forward to getting up with the sun. Don’t expect me to swing from a tree as this opening photo suggests though. I will, however, be walking. I’m even hoping these strategies will leave a great mark on my habits, making this one collection of stretch marks I’m actually looking forward to.
Stay tuned for Strategy 3 early next week. Enjoy the long weekend—or better yet, have “Sweet Holiday Dreams.”