Summer Plan: Be Spontaneous
By Jennifer Huget
Tuesday, June 1, 2004; Page HE01
What do I want to do on my summer vacation? A lot of little things.
Summer's framework is pretty much in place: a couple of kids' stints at camp, my daughter's time-devouring summer-theater commitment, a week at Ocean City, Md. In between, it's the same stuff that fills the rest of the year -- work, clean the bathrooms, process the laundry -- peppered with the usual seasonal projects involving the yard, the pool and the exteriors of the house and cars. Weekends fill themselves with the kind of fun that takes a bit of planning: barbecues with friends, kayaks on the lake, hitting the outdoor flea markets.
But all that's not quite enough for me. It won't seem like we've had any summer at all unless we manage to squeeze in some of the season's small, potent pleasures, the simple, spontaneous activities whose memories stick with you for life.
I've pretty much given up hope of re-creating the long and lollygagging summers of my youth, when 10 short weeks felt like 2 1/2 whole months. But I'll feel shortchanged if, come September, I've haven't stalked fireflies in the moonlight with my family, raced to finish an ice-cream cone before it melts down the back of my hand or pulled the kids onto the hammock with me to savor a summertime book.
Given our chockablock schedule, though, I worry that even these modest ambitions might elude me.
My fear is well-founded, says time management expert Julie Morgenstern. But, she promises, with (of course) a bit of planning, those spontaneous moments can be mine after all.
"To open space for the spontaneous moments, you have to plan big pockets of time when they can happen," said Morgenstern, author of "Time Management From the Inside Out" (Henry Holt and Company, 2000). "There's no such thing as free time."
Morgenstern advocates a kind of macro to-do-list approach that she calls "time mapping," which involves "pre-budgeting time into big activity zones."
Time mapping is a big-picture notion that begins with anal retentiveness. For starters, Morgenstern recommends compiling a detailed master list of everything you and your family members need or just want to do. The big list should include everything: don't forget work and camp commitments, household chores, vacation (and pre-vacation preparation), those summer reading lists, shrub-pruning and grass-mowing plus going to the pool, slurping Slurpees and making the world's longest daisy chain.
According to Morgenstern's scheme, then you can carve out your time blocks. But this isn't pre-planning every minute. "Think school," she advises. "At school, there's science time, arts and crafts time, reading time," Morgenstern explains. Creating a similar template of time blocks at home, she said, provides a basic structure; what precisely you do within a given block will vary from day to day.
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