The grass is green, the birds are chirping, and teenagers are driving around listening to Alice Cooper’s School’s Out. Me? I’m working on a plan for the upcoming summer.
It may not seem like planning a summer is the best way to enjoy summer, but planning ahead leads to a much more productive and fun summer for my family and me.
I learned this lesson after I read Bruce Feiler’s The Secrets of Happy Families. In this book, Feiler shares his findings about what happy families do. One of those things was to have better mornings by using a checklist. Feiler discovered the morning checklist when talking with Jeff Sutherland about how he used agile software development principles to code a happier homestead. Sutherland says:
“People think it’s natural to live in a world in where everyone is dysfunctional. It’s not. It’s normal for people to be satisfied. All you have to do is remove the barriers that are making you unhappy and you’ll be a lot happier. That’s what this system does.”
If you recognize Sutherland’s name it’s probably because he wrote the book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. It’s a system that works for groups of all sizes, from small families to those in Silicon Valley. But it’s not just having a system, it’s applying it as well. It’s a bit like that treadmill folded up in the corner of the room, it can really help you lose weight, but you have to use it first.
At first, I thought doing a morning checklist would be difficult, but I was wrong. I thought the morning checklist would be cumbersome, but it really wasn’t. Feiler gives examples of checklists and shares the bumps he faced along the way.
Using Feller’s examples of checklists, we made up our own. Our first version in the fall led to some discoveries and changes. We learned that the sequence was very important. For example, brushing teeth and using the bathroom should be next to each other on the list. We also learned that on certain nights when we were busier, the chores should reflect that. The combinations of these little things was a better morning. Planning what needed to be done led to a better morning for everyone.
Our checklist is different when school starts, so the end of the school year is another natural break in the year. It is the perfect time to take a moment and evaluate their own methods to see what can be improved. In what ways is your schedule going to change now that school is no longer in session? For me, it means less writing on the weekends but more in the early mornings.
I’m anticipating these things because it’s dangerous to my productivity if I don’t. If I don’t rethink our checklist, my daughters will spend the majority of the day in front of the television. If I don’t rethink my priorities, I’ll spend the day surfing Reddit. If we don’t have intentional structure in place during moments of change, we follow the path of least resistance.
Make no mistake it is work, but planning ahead makes my summer better. It is the equivalent of buying amusement park tickets online and skipping the crowds at the gate. It’s knowing where in the park you’ll go, rather than riding whatever you see.
Summers aren’t inherently unproductive; plan ahead to make your summer both fun AND productive. Take a moment to think about one hurdle to making this a good summer and experiment with a solution. Go ahead and find the hidden gem restaurant, instead of settling for making a hot dog in the microwave.
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