Summer Vibes: Work Less, Play More

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Summer Vibes: Work Less, Play More

The sun’s out, and it’s time to soak up the fun. But how do we do that and still have a business to return to in September? In this episode, I’m sharing my best tips and tricks for working less and playing more so you can make the most of this season.

I’ve noticed early signs of the summer slowdown in the last few weeks. With nicer weather and longer days, people want to be outside and do life things. As school ends, kids graduate, and we shift into a season where we naturally want to work less and play more.

It’s totally normal, and if you know anything about me, I’m all about summer. I plan my entire year to take full advantage of my outdoor time and nicer weather, and I encourage you to do the same. (If summer isn’t your thing, you can do this any time of year that works for you!)

I consider myself an expert on embracing those summer vibes to the fullest, but I will always keep it real with you. You’ve got to plan so you can go into July and August with a clear intention about how things will happen.

Will it be perfect? Absolutely not! But what we don’t want to do is miss out on an opportunity to ensure that we create the space we need during the summer.

Your Business Won’t Collapse Without You

I don’t need to tell you you need time to recharge and rejuvenate—you already know that! But certain things can really interfere with your ability to take a break.

How you think about the summer is likely rooted in your relationship with hustle culture and toxic productivity. It’s really easy to believe we must work constantly or our business will fall apart entirely.

Even when we know we need to rest and take time away from the business, we can easily ignore it. There needs to be a happy medium where you do the work you need to do so that your clients are happy (and your business is in maintenance mode) and falling into the trap of not taking time off.

And just so we’re clear. I know many people preach about having a life-first business, but friends, they’re all working still, even if they may portray that they’re working a couple of hours a week and sitting on a pile of cash.

Yes, life always comes first, but we need to not fall for the marketing message behind it all that makes us feel like if we have to actually *gasp* work at all, we’re doing it wrong.

As always, there’s so much downright terrible advice (yes, even about taking time off) that I recommend you promptly ignore it all. And if any of these things are living rent-free in your head, I urge you to examine why you may feel that way and explore how you can shift these beliefs.

I’m talking about things like: 

  • Your business will fall apart without you.
  • You won’t succeed if you take time away.
  • You should still be available on vacation. 
  • Just work an hour a day while you’re off. 
  • Don’t take time off if there’s work still to do.
  • You don’t need more than a day or two. 
  • Check-in throughout your time off. 

Now, let’s discuss how to create your Summer Action Plan.

What is a Summer Action Plan?

I stole the name of the Summer Action Plan from my husband’s job, as it’s a major initiative they work on each year. I’ll spare you all the details, but let’s just say I’ve heard about this for years, so it’s stuck in my head. Trust me when I say yours will be WAY more fun than the one he talks about.

Here are the questions to consider to create your plan:

1. What Life Commitments Do I Have?

Your life should come first, from kids out of school to adventures to wanting to soak up the sun. That’s always true, but for summer especially.

List all the personal commitments and activities you want to engage in over the summer. This could include vacations, family visits, special events, or leisure time. You may want to take up kayaking like I did last summer. I don’t care what it is; just put it on the list!

2. What’s My Schedule?

Schedules are subject to change during the summer. You may work shorter days, fewer days per week, or have full weeks you’re taking off.

Getting your work hours and weeks off nailed down now means you can communicate them proactively to anyone who needs to know. Consider adopting a flexible schedule that allows you to enjoy the summer weather while still getting your work done.

3. When Am I Taking a Vacation?

Whether planning a trip or not, please schedule time off now. Even a whole week off can make a critical difference to your well-being.

Once you pick your weeks off, let your clients know NOW so they’re aware, and everything can work around your availability. Block out your vacation time on your calendar and treat it as non-negotiable.

4. How Much Time to Work Do I Really Have?

My social activities and commitments have ramped up in the last two weeks. Where I might have snuck something in during non-work hours, I now have something planned. You’re likely the same.

This means it’s time to adjust your expectations of what you can commit to and how much work you’ll get done. Be realistic about the amount of work you can handle and avoid overcommitting.

5. What’s My Client Load Like?

As you’ve answered all these questions, you’ve likely realized you may have a client load that is too heavy. You may have overcommitted.

Take a pen and paper and figure out what you’ve got on your plate, then adjust. Consider reducing your client load for the summer or delegating tasks to your team if you have one.

And if you need help with your capacity planning, grab a copy of the Calculator Kit.

6. Do I Have Time to Work ON the Business?

I used to have lofty goals for everything I would get done in the summer. It was super cute but very unrealistic. In 2021, I started taking a content hiatus, where the podcast and other content went on pause. Plus, in 2019, I switched my 1:1 calls for the summer months, so clients have one over July/August.

That frees up space to work on projects for BS-Free Business, so I don’t need to work as much each week. 

I challenge you to consider when you will work on the business, be brutally honest with yourself about what needs to be done, and be discerning about where you invest your time and energy.

Putting Your Plan Into Action: It’s All About Boundaries

Now that you have a plan, you must communicate it to your clients. One of the biggest hangups I used to have as a solo business owner was that my clients wouldn’t be happy if I took time off or wasn’t as available.

Then, I started sending them an email every June with a rundown of what to expect this summer. I’d share my vacation dates, any changes to availability, and so on. And you know what? People were cool with it, as they’re doing the same.

Sticky situations arise when we fail to communicate what to expect and back it up with our boundaries. By communicating proactively, you’re setting the pace for what will happen in the next two months so everyone can manage accordingly.

I suggest sending that email now. Don’t wait until June 29th when you’re annoyed that a client has requested something before you plan to take time off or have limited availability.

Here are a few reminders about setting and keeping boundaries as you’re out there having fun in the sun (with lots of SPF).

Boundary #1: Really and Truly Take Time Off

If you’re taking time off, really and truly take time off—none of this checking email and responding to clients.

I’ve been guilty of this in the past, and it means you can’t relax. Honestly, it’s some over-functioning where I think I’m way more important than I really am. 

Your clients can live without you for a week or even two. They’ll be fine. They’ll figure it out. And if they can’t, that’s a problem!

Boundary #2: Set and Keep Communication Boundaries

During the summer months, most of us are out and about more, and we’re not necessarily butt-in-chair, so it’s easy to let our usual communication methods slip.

Where we may require clients to use our PM system, we’re not in there as much, so we let things slide. We start answering emails that should be in the system because it’s “easier.”

But here’s the thing. It’s easier now, but it won’t be down the road when you’re dealing with chaos. Set clear communication guidelines and stick to them. Let your clients know the best way to reach you and your expected response times.

Take it from me: one of the most challenging clients I ever had took a real turn when I provided access to me via text. It was relentless and resulted in a lot of angst for me. Zero stars. I do not recommend it at all.

Boundary #3: Revamp Turnaround Time and Deadlines

When you aim to work less and live more, it’s completely understandable that you want to get as much done as possible when you are working.

But here’s something to think about. What if you didn’t do that? What if you left enough margin to manage your tasks and projects so you don’t have to go full throttle when working?

My big secret has been to slow down my turnaround times and the deadlines we commit to during the summer months. Discuss deadlines with your clients and see if they can be extended. Often, deadlines are more flexible than we think.

Boundary #4: Commit to Your Hours of Work

Summer can be chaotic for many of you, so your work hours may be shifting based on multiple factors. I want you to think carefully about committing to your work hours.

How many hours a week are you going to work? When are you going to work? What are your office hours? You need a clear idea of how much you plan to work each week and a loose schedule.

I’m not going to pretend this will be perfect, but you need more than an “I’ll do it when I have time” kind of schedule that results in needless stress and drama. Communicate your office hours to your clients and stick to them.

Boundary #5: Sticking to What You Say

This last one is a boundary for yourself. Because you know what? When you break your limits, you also show your clients they can. 

Commit to sticking to what you say. You’ve done the work of stating your boundaries with clients, so don’t undo that work and sabotage yourself. 

If you’re a people pleaser, this will likely be a challenge, but how much better would you feel if you kept those boundaries? How much more fun would you have? How much happier would you feel? 

Setting and maintaining boundaries is crucial for your mental health and overall well-being.

Unplug and Unwind: Your Plan to Take Time Away

As we wrap up, let’s ensure you have a solid plan to make the most of this summer. First, take a few moments to create your personalized Summer Action Plan. Identify your life commitments, outline your work schedule, and decide your vacation dates. Remember, your well-being comes first, so prioritize activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Communicate your availability to clients well in advance, setting clear expectations about your time off. 

Next, it’s time to set and uphold those all-important boundaries. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by putting them all into play, pick one that you’re really going to focus on over the next two to three months.

So go ahead, soak up the sun, have fun, and don’t forget your SPF.

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Maggie Patterson Abou the Author

I’m Maggie Patterson (she/her), and services businesses are my business.

I have 20+ years of experience with client services, am a consultant for agency owners, creatives, and consultants, and vocal advocate for humane business practices rooted in empathy, respect, and trust.

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