Do you remember how you looked forward with anticipation to the end of the school term?  No more hitting the books, no more tests, no more long-winded lectures, just long lazy days to do what you wanted to do?  Last week I wrote about how summer vacations can be hazardous to your health and during a conversation this week I realized that once again I had fallen into a ‘summertime bog’ that could threaten my peace of mind if I let it.  I don’t know if I’m the only one who does this, but every year I set things aside to do in the summer, ‘when I have more time’!  And I’ve done this throughout my life, including my career as an environmental and agricultural researcher.  Now if you’re a professional working in these sectors you know that the growing season, aka ‘summer’, is extremely busy and usually entails long hours to take advantage of the longer days to collect data.  So why did I keep on setting tasks aside throughout the year to do in the summer, when I ‘had more time’?

Then one day I realized that my actions were the result of many years of conditioning.  Yes, I had been conditioned to think this way by all those years spent as a student looking forward to the summer when there would be no classes!  Every year for 13 years I went to school during the day from September until the end of June – then glorious freedom!  No need to get up early or rush to catch a bus, no hours sitting at a desk, no evening homework – just plenty of free time to do whatever I wanted (well not exactly – growing up on a farm meant plenty of work during the summer, but I still had more time to do what I wanted during the week than when I was in school).

The end result of 13 years of school time conditioning is that even now, years after leaving the school environment (nope, not a teacher with summers off!) I still have to catch myself from accumulating too many things to do in the summer during what is now non-existent spare time!  I still find myself putting work aside in the winter to do ‘when I have more time next summer’.  And the end result, if left unchecked, is that by the end of the summer I’m totally exhausted from trying to get it all done and feel that somehow I’ve failed if I don’t!  The whole ‘let’s leave it till the summer’ can be very stressful.

Now I admit that living in the northern hemisphere the longer daylight hours can give the appearance of more time, since it gives you more time to do things outside if you are working at regular day job and not home during the day, so yes, you can garden and work outside for longer periods.  However there isn’t really any more time to do a lot of ‘extra stuff’ if you’re away at work all day.  So piling up work for the summer ‘spare time’ can end up increasing your stress level and leave you feeling like a failure because, unless you get the summer off, you, you don’t have anymore spare time than you do at any other time of the year to get extra work done.

The answer, if you want a less stressful, more relaxed, happier summer that helps enhance your THRIVE-ABILITY, is to stop thinking like you’re still in school and recognize that saving a pile of work for that non-existent ‘summer spare time’ will only sabotage your peace of mind.  Be realistic in what you can accomplish during ‘the summer’ (especially as in our school year conditioned minds it really is only 2 months long) and don’t spoil your enjoyment of the summer months.

And believe me, it isn’t easy to break free of ‘school year’ conditioning.  After all this time out of the system, and knowing intellectually that I don’t have the summer off to do ‘extra stuff’, I still find my-self setting projects aside in the winter to be worked on during that illusive ‘spare time next summer’. But I am getting better at it and at least now I don’t beat myself up for failing to get all that ‘saved for the summer’ stuff actually done during the summer!  Here’s hoping you don’t either.

So, until next time, enjoy the rest of summer and keep thriving 🙂

Karen Switzer-Howse

Canada’s Premier Thrive Synergy Strategist

©2012 Karen Switzer-Howse