Thursday, June 10, 2010

The 2016 hours of summer

(cross-posted at; this fits in the "parenting" category for Gifted Exchange).

There are 168 hours in a week. Many kids have roughly 12 weeks off from school for June, July and August. This raises the question for families: what are you doing with these 2016 hours (168 x 12) of summer?

Sure, you'll be sleeping some. Grown-ups will sleep about 672 of them. Kids a bit more. And many adults also have far less than 12 weeks off work. But even if you're working 40 hours during each of those 12 weeks -- 480 hours -- that still leaves 864 waking, non-working summer hours. If you take a week or two off work (most people have a few days off around July 4th anyway) that puts you up over 900.

This is a lot of time, even if you already have commitments like camps or sports practices. Do you know how you'll spend these 900 hours?

We have been trying to figure this out in my house. Sure, there are bigger things: a weekend trip to the beach, a few days visiting grandparents, a week's beach vacation in August. But many of those 900 summer hours come in shorter spurts. They come as a lazy weekend day, or a gorgeous summer evening where it stays light up until bedtime.

In my book, 168 Hours, I reference an exercise created by career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine, called the "List of 100 Dreams." This is an unedited list of anything you might like to do or have in life. It's a good way to start thinking about how you'd like to fill your time, because time management isn't just about saving 5 minutes here and there. It's about filling your weeks with activities that bring you and your loved ones joy.

I've been thinking these last few days that it would be a good idea for families to create a List of 100 Summer Dreams. Sit down as a family and start thinking through anything you might like to include in your summer. Evening bike rides? Camp-outs in the backyard? S'mores in the backyard? A weekend canoeing trip? A hike in a nearby state park? A family swimming class? Volunteering together? Making a quilt together? Picnic breakfasts?

You can come back to this list multiple times. But as you look through your weeks, keep looking at this list, and looking for places in the 2016 hours of summer where they'd fit. You have time for anything you really want to do. A canoeing trip your kids may remember for years could only take 10 hours or so on a Saturday. I don't believe in scheduling our lives (particularly our summers!) down to the minute. But we live in a distracted world. When we don't plan to do things that take effort, we tend not to do them. And we lose our summer hours to television, web surfing, chores, errands and puttering. Better to start off with the question of what we'd like to be doing as families, and go from there.


Lisa said...

Very good points, Laura. It's so true that often life just gets frittered away with little to show for it. I'm going to take your suggestion and do up a list with my family (I like lists anyway, so that alone will bring me joy, lol).

purple said...

I agree with you Laura, it sure is exhausting to think of activities for youngsters during summer. Making a lits is definitely a wonderful idea, that will keep the little ones from having down time, and saving the mom's and dad's some sanity.

J. said...

"Making a lits is definitely a wonderful idea, that will keep the little ones from having down time,"

I agree this is a wonderful post. But what's wrong with little ones having a little down time? And downtime in our family is not wasted time. It's a stack of books, not television or video games. Downtime is so vital to children of all ages. It allows them free play, reflection, daydreaming and stokes the imagination.

There's danger in too much time frittered away. You don't want September to roll around and regret you could have done so much with the kids and didn't. But there's an even greater danger in doing too much.