Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Bucket List Challenge: Prioritizing Family Time

No one has ever said I wish I'd spent more time at work. Yet, when doing what you love or working for yourself, we're often doing just that to the detriment of relationships and our own mental health. Whether you have kids or not, it's important to make time for awe and wonder to spark your creative process and to spur innovation. Summer Bucket Lists can help with this.

2014 Summer Bucket List: See the Butterflies at Academy of Sciences


It's been drilled into us that if something is not scheduled it won't happen. If you're not careful, you can easily end up with every waking moment accounted for. And, this is a bad thing. Not only have you left yourself no time for unexpected emergencies, you have left out opportunities for discovery, for recharging, for connecting.

Last summer, I put aside projects I thought I needed to do and prioritized family time (our Summer Bucket List helped with this), creating opportunities for us just to be a family. It was a struggle to do so at the time, but after the events of the Fall, a struggle I'm glad I took on.

What's one thing you can do
to add a little more awe and wonder to your day?
2014 Summer Bucket List: Visit Academy of Sciences Gates Explores Tide Pool at Academy of Sciences


Making Time for Awe and Wonder

Young children have no grasp on time. Everything is right now for them. There's no judgement that the time they're spending just being is being wasted. Their minds are free to wander without self-imposed restrictions. They see the world with a sense of wonder and amazement. And, as adults we need to bring some of this freedom back into our lives.

Tips for Intentionally Using Your Time

Here are five tips for being more intentional with your use or nonuse of time:

  1. Stop judging time where you're not "doing" something as wasted. It's ok to be still, to not be producing visible, tangible results. In our always on, always accessible modern world, it's easy to fall into the trap of not wanting to waste a moment, to appear indispensable to an employer, or to be appreciated by a customer, a friend, or a random person on the Internet. You're constantly checking your email or social media to see if a colleague needs help, if there's an event you could be at, or something else. You're looking for a better use of your time; the only time that's wasted is the time you spend judging yourself.
  2. Put away your devices (unless you're using them as a camera). Leave them in another room where you won't be tempted to check them. If out, turn notifications off and silence your phone. Use your devices just for emergencies. Be "on" for your family, not an imagined potential work crisis.
  3. Don't beat yourself up for yesterday; today is a new day. If you've had your nose to the grindstone or worked through blocks of time you've set aside to be with your family or to be by yourself in the past, it's ok. You can't change the past. Taking time for discovery, recharge, and connection is a life long practice. If you didn't practice yesterday, practice today.
  4. Guilt only has value if something productive results. If you continue feeling the same guilt (for example, that you never have enough time to just sit and "do" nothing) and never do anything to change your behavior, it's wasted energy. And not only that, it's a lot of negative energy you're choosing to surround yourself in.
  5. Baby steps are progress. When you were learning to run, you didn't just jump up from a crawl and sprint across your living room. You first had to learn how to stand on your feet and that meant discovering your muscles and beginning to manipulate them. Once you were standing, you had to learn how to move in a planned direction. While to an outsider it might not look like an accomplishment, the amount of data you were accumulating and processing was vast. So don't try to unlearn a behavior in one try.
If like me you thrive on lists, create a list of "rainy day" activities. These "rainy day" activities are ones that would make you happy, ones that you wouldn't necessarily take the time to do but you've secretly wanted to do. Pull out your list when you want to take a break and recharge. Your list will reduce the time you spend context switching as your research will already be done and you can just go when you have the momentum. For us, our list is our Summer Bucket List.

Do you have a Summer Bucket List?

Our Progress on 2014 Summer Bucket List

I'd planned on sharing our 2014 Summer Bucket List with you earlier in the summer. While I didn't share it, we've been consistently working our way through it an item or two every couple of weeks. So far, Gates had her first taste of Mitchell's Ice Cream (their avocado ice cream was a hit). Gates went to the Academy of Sciences for the first time. Gates tasted Creme Brulee for the first time.

2014 Summer Bucket List: Eat Creme Brulee Gates Eats Creme Brulee


We've cooked or baked as a family on numerous occasions (and intentionally shown that both cubes and I take turns cleaning up). We went camping as a family (and we're going to go again!). And, Gates ate her first strawberry that she picked herself.

2014 Summer Bucket List: Go Camping as a Family Gates Asleep in Our Tent


You can view more photos from our summer excursions in our Summer Bucket List Flickr gallery.

The Importance of Making Family Time

We first participated in the Summer Bucket List Challenge in 2013 when Gates was just a year old. Our reason for a summer bucket list when Gates wasn't even in school yet? To take advantage of her external-commitment free time. There's no pressure to complete a math workbook, read from a mandated book list, visit historical sites in advance of class lessons to get personal photos for future class projects, or anything else. We, or rather I, was a little ambitious with our first list. We were still adjusting to our lives as a family of three and ended up in August racing through our list.

2013 Summer Bucket List: Picnic In Mission Dolores


At the time it was a little crazy trying to fill every moment with a bucket list challenge item, but in hindsight so worth it. When cubes was in the hospital, I looked back on those memories and didn't regret the work that I put aside for an instant. Knowing that his time in the hospital was temporary and that we'd be once again doing activities as a family helped me stay grounded through the Fall.

Gates Playing at Mission Dolores


Depending on where your kids go to school, you may have a few weeks of summer left (mid-August) or just over a month (Labor Day). However much time you have and whether you have a Summer Bucket List or not, carve out some time to spend together as a family. It may seem like you can push it off--and you may indeed be able to--but, trust me the memories you'll be making, the smiles and the laughter you'll be sharing, will warm your heart through any tough times.

Gates at Mission Dolores Playyground


For us, the summer of 2013 will be the summer we raised a horde of fruit flies instead of growing organic indoor strawberries. The summer Gates had her first taste of Bi-Rite Ice Cream. We "picnicked" in Mission Dolores Park with friends (the photos of that excursion would paper the walls of cubes' hospital room). We had an old timey family portrait taken on Sunday Streets (we actually made it out to a Sunday Streets festival!).

genuinely eden

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Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.