Transform Your Summer--Play More, Work Less

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Do you get nostalgic every time June comes around? Remember how summer felt as a kid? Pure freedom. Long days. Nothing scheduled. No work. No responsibilities. It was the time of your life.

As you grew older, graduated from college and got a job, you might have started only seeing summer through the glass next to your cubicle. Or maybe you have kids, and summer now seems like long days of babysitting and laundry instead of a fun, carefree season.

Well, it's time to stop the nonsense.

Where is the rule book that says that grown ups can't enjoy their summers too? Where does it say that you can only have fun once all the work is done?

Researchers who study the way people spend their leisure time have found that if you say you're going to reward yourself with fun and freedom after you finish your to-do list, you're never going to get there. There will always be more laundry. There will always be more on your to-do list. If you want free time to enjoy your summer, you have to create it.

Here's how to transform your summer into the fun, carefree days of your youth.

1. Wake Up Before The Kids

This seems like a tough one. After all, summer is about lazy days and sleeping in, isn't it? Even if you can schedule one or two days each week to wake up before the kids, you can change your life. You'll have:
- Time alone to wake up and collect your thoughts before the demands of motherhood begin
- Time to go outside before the heat and mugginess set in for the day
- Time to do something that is utterly pleasurable (and has nothing to do with your to-do list).
If you end up spending the rest of the day tackling your to-do list, at least you know you took care of yourself first.

2. Read A Book

When is the last time you read a book that wasn't for work or self-enrichment? Pick up the latest best-selling fiction novel and lose yourself in the pages. Bonus points if you do this by the pool, at the beach or while relaxing in a hammock.

3. Buy a Hammock

Speaking of which, get yourself a hammock. It's the perfect way to spend the wee hours of the morning, enjoy the sunset or get into that book you just bought. Even if you don't have two trees to hold up your hammock, you can get yourself a hammock stand or install two posts in the ground using concrete.

4. Be Unavailable

Do you feel like you're tied to your work, your calendar or your friends? Disconnect for a few hours each day. Let the texts come in, and schedule two times a day to reply to them instead of looking at your phone every time it buzzes. Tell your kids that your unavailable for an hour or two (as long as they're at an age that they can play independently and safely) and sit in the shade listening to your favorite music or reading your book.

5. Play More

This doesn't mean that you need to let your little one dress you up as a princess and have a tea party. Play in a way that makes you happy. Do you forget what that is? Make a list of all of the things that made you feel magical, joyful and free as a child. Do one of those things a day. If you can get your kids involved, that's even better.

6. Eat Outside

Even if you're stuck in the office all day, get some fresh air. Grab an apple and nibble on it as you walk around the building during a 15-minute break, or spend your lunch hour on a blanket at the park.

You'll look back on your summer as a time of freedom and joy if you actually take the time to make it that way. One way to ensure that your summer doesn't get you down is to keep sunburns at bay. Wear sun protective clothing and remember to apply lotion with SPF every day (even if you're inside) to go with your newfound lifestyle of summer fun.

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