Think of it as calendar clutter—the not-totally-hellish but not-especially-rewarding time sucks you agree to when the sunny days stretch out like an endless highway. And then you wind up regretting them when it’s halfway through August and the only me time you’ve enjoyed is a 25-minute oatmeal bath after you stepped in poison ivy. To avoid this all-too-familiar scenario, follow these simple steps.
Look back to move forward
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result. So before embarking on summer 2019, reflect on the past few years. “Most of us are so busy moving from one thing to the next that we never really stop to reflect on how we spend our time and how it makes us feel,” says Kate Petriw, the Toronto-based author of the millennial mindfulness bible Let That Sh*t Go. But trips down memory lane can help bring priorities into focus. Maybe that annual family reunion gave you a week’s worth of anxiety or that “super fun” book club was actually super stressful. “Don’t assume that the things you like to do are going to be the same as all your friends,” says Petriw. You need to know what you like before you cull.
Make time for nothing
For a lot of us, the perfect summer weekend involves carefree hours with friends, family and the new Elizabeth Gilbert novel. Still, these aren’t the types of activities that get a colour on the family iCal and, if you’re constantly overbooked, they probably won’t happen at all. The solution is to commit to no commitments. “A lot of people have this idea that just because you have space on your calendar, that means you should accept an invite,” says Petriw. Instead, try designating time for absolutely nothing.
Just say no
Now that you know what you want to do, it’s time to get rid of the rest. The annual potluck at your cousin’s place (where you’re the only one who has to drive for hours and the only one who brings good food)? Sorry, can’t make it. Your partner’s boss’s long-weekend barbecue? Not this summer. For women in particular, saying no can feel like you’re doing something wrong, but try thinking of it as the world’s least expensive self-care remedy. “The good news is, it gets easier the more you do it,” says Petriw. “It’s almost like realizing you’ve had this superpower all along, and you haven’t been using it.” Honesty is generally the best policy—just say you’re making a concerted effort not to overbook yourself. But a little white lie may help avoid awkwardness. You can’t go to the school fundraiser because…you’ve committed yourself to an important project. (Nobody said leisure time didn’t take effort.)