Our culture surrounding summer can be a bit ironic. On the one hand, we picture ourselves sprawled out on the sand with a beach read and mint mojito. On the other, we end up creating bucket lists, scheduling events, and signing up for commitments of all sorts.

Soon enough, making it to the beach feels daunting– just another thing to check off.

Why do we do this?

First, because we can. Those who can’t are currently giving the rest of us the proverbial (perhaps literal) eye-roll, because not everyone gets a “summer”. Sure, the season comes and goes, but work marches on regardless what the temperatures are outside or what they’re trying to sell you at Target.

So, those of us who get a “summer”– a length of time during which our obligations are lightened– have to live it up for everyone else, right? Isn’t that what Instagram is all about? (10 reasons to toss FOMO out the window)

No. Those of us who get a summer need to use it well. And using it well is not the same as stuffing our schedules and lists until they burst at the seams. Quite the contrary, really.

6 Ways to Simplify Your Summer- before your schedule bursts at the seams

If you’re one of few individuals in this world blessed with leisure time in the summer months, then perhaps you’ll join me in a quest for creating the summer you actually want— not the summer you think you need to have.

Because the truth is, somewhere between lazing around and adventuring abroad is the sweet spot: the balance required for feeling truly rested, refreshed, and ready to pursue our goals again. (How to stay focused and achieve your short-term goals). Isn’t that what most of us want from an ideal summer?

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6 Ways to Simplify Your Summer (and have the summer you really want)

1) Choose the gatherings that matter.

It’s summer, so there’s an endless supply of barbecues, lunches, and lawn parties. While it might be uncouth to turn down every invitation, ask yourself which ones you really, honestly want to attend. So often we tell ourselves that these things are mandatory– but they rarely are. If summertime is limited, we need to spend it with people we love.

2) Protect the blank spaces in your calendar.

Resist the temptation to fill those empty days; leave yourself time to be spontaneous. When that day arrives, do whatever suits your fancy (and the weather), and don’t worry about not accomplishing anything. Sometimes spontaneity leads to an activity we’ve needed all along.

3) Prioritize ahead of time.

Write down 3-5  important things you wish to prioritize this summer (hint: shopping and waterparks are not an option). Perhaps this is improving your health, cultivating a new habit, or getting enough time with your loved ones. Limit those priorities– only write down the most important. Keep this list somewhere you’ll see it often.

4) Relax on social media and unsubscribe from promotional emails.

Can we look away from other people’s adventures for just one second? If FOMO is not destroying you yet, it might bother you in the summer. For whatever reason, it’s easy to want others to approve of what we’re doing with our free time. But we don’t need their approval, do we?

And while you’re not checking Instagram, go through your “Promotional” inbox and actually unsubscribe. It’s likely that companies are trying to sell you everything from sale swimwear to sweat-resistant makeup to grilling tools. To resist the temptation, repeat after me: I have enough. I do enough. I am enough.

5) Re-evaluate that “bucket list.”

The idea of a bucket list can be stressful, if not a bit morbid. A bucket list that induces anxiety so that you run around checking off each item is hardly the way to enjoy time off. If there are a few things you hope to accomplish, then great. Just don’t let the list rule your life.

6) Intentionally spend time alone.

When we’re busy during the rest of the year, it’s likely that we don’t have much time to ourselves. Having time to be introspective, explore new places or reflect on months past is a luxury. Don’t miss the opportunity; it will make you feel more relaxed and self-aware when schedules pick back up again.

The bottom line is, I hope you’ll create the summer that your body and mind have been waiting for– regardless of what others are doing. Having leisure time at all is a privilege, and one that we shouldn’t squander.

What are your summer plans?