Somewhere in my memory are the images and feelings of summertime as slow-down time, play time, fun and maybe even a little boredom time. No school. Inventing and playing out games in the backyard. Afternoons at the lake. Vacations (including the one where I got a button stuck in my nose, but that’s another story).

As an adult though, not so much. Summertime meant increased pressure at work as I covered for others’ vacations and hectically prepare for my own – and then worked extra hours to catch up afterwords. There was the scramble to find child care, the time needed to shuttle children to sports activities and camps, and later to take older children to college move-ins. There hasn’t much time in my adult summers for just being – hanging out on the patio, lounging on the beach, reading mystery novels to my heart’s content.

Yet I  know how crucial down-time is for so many reasons. It promotes discovery, self-renewal, creativity and connection. The question is how to do this. I live in the same the revved-up world as you do! It turns out that it can be done.

Here’s are some ideas that work for me, and might work for you, too. I discovered these some years back, and remind myself of them every year. These ideas are about giving myself the gift of a true vacation.

It involves three strategies.

  1.  Scheduling an extra day or two off prior to leaving, and an extra day or two off after returning. That reduces pre- and post-vacation stress dramatically.
  2. I now make a rule – no work email or calls while on vacation. Because vacation is time to renew. And you’re not renewing when thinking about and responding to clients, bosses and co-workers.
  3. Building some cushion into my first few days back at work. I schedule time to catch up on emails and phone messages. I don’t plan major meetings or presentations during the first week back.I leave some unscheduled time for the predictable but unknown meetings and tasks that are sure to be awaiting (but in my scheduler,I  mark that time as “busy” so that no appointments or meetings get added in.

Do these seem nearly impossible to do? I used to think so. Here’s what I’ve found.The pre-vacation days off let me to get ready (relatively) calmly and start the vacation in a relaxed frame of mind, or at least more relaxed than if I’d worked right up until the last minute. The “re-entry days” let me unwind from the return trip, take care of needed errands and review my upcoming schedule.

After taking a couple of bike touring vacations where I was pretty much out of reach for 5-7 days, I discovered something. My work was still there when I returned!  Returning to a schedule that has some cushion in it allows me to cope with the inevitable busyness that builds up while I’m away. And having protected my time before and during my vacation means I return to work not only refreshed but excited to be back.

Have you tried out ideas like these/ What other ideas do you use to get unbusy in the summertime?