Since I left paid employment nearly 4 years ago, I’ve struggled with the summer holidays.

Part of my reason for leaving work was that I wanted to be able to be around for the children. I wanted to be able to pick them up from school, take them to the park to play and generally be around in case they needed me. [ As an aside; fast forward 4 years and going to breakfast club is a ‘treat’ that is given as a reward for good behaviour. I console myself with the fact that if it was every day it would loose it’s appeal but it still grates.] I also wanted to be able to enjoy the summer holidays rather than feeling like I’m juggling sabre teeth tigers blindfolded which is how trying to stretch 8 weeks of annual leave to cover 13 weeks of school holidays made me feel.

Since becoming self-employed, I’ve tried a few different iterations of the ‘perfect summer’ and so far I have failed to get it right. Sometimes when you are trying to get the systems right you have to experiment (see my last blog about this for further info) and I feel like I am doing that right now.

A quick run down of the various fails so far:

Year 1 – My first year of being self employed was meant to be low key so I could enjoy my daughter’s last year before she started school. I had 2 days a week to get my fledgling business off the ground and by June time I was starting to attract a small but steady stream of clients. Surely I couldn’t just drop them because it was the summer? I would manage to juggle work and family. Lots of people did it. This did not go well. I failed to meet any of my expectations to either my children or my clients. [Lesson 1 – Planning is key to make sure you manage your own expectations. Lesson 2: Good childcare is vital for my sanity!]

Year 2 – My second year I was determined to manage it better. I wasn’t going to do too much work and I was going to enjoy myself. I planned carefully and I earnt the money I needed for August before the summer holidays started and I just had a couple of clients I needed to do work for through August.  It all went well. I enjoyed the summer. Right up until my son was hospitalised with a nasty injury that turned into a very serious infection. I obviously dropped everything to be with him but this meant that I didn’t do any marketing at the start of September and guess what… when he came out of hospital I had no clients lined up. I was so thrown by the whole thing that it took me till November to get back on track. Fortunately I had a buffer fund put to one side which I used to pay myself during that time but generally it wasn’t a bit success. I can cut myself a bit of slack for the unexpected hospitalisation but if I’m objective, I still think I would have needed to get the marketing engine whirring at the end of August to ensure I had some clients in September or I would have had a pretty low month. [Lesson 3 – a buffer fund is vital to allow you to cope with unexpected crises. Lesson 4 – marketing takes time to work, you need to start at least 2/3 weeks before you want clients]

Year 3 – Having successfully managed to do very little work the year before I decided to go the whole hog and NOT WORK. So no email checking, no calls, no blogs etc. It was a bit radical but I realised that if I had the money in place to do it then it would be much better than the little voice constantly reminding me to check email or do a post. It was bliss. Right up until September when I came back to work. I’d had 7 weeks off and it was like climbing out of treacle. My brain was so switched off that I could hardly remember what I did. Did I get much work in September? No. I was properly off the ball. It was enough effort to get up and in front of the computer. Was this a bad thing? I’m not sure. I think my brain enjoyed it’s complete break and this year has been my most succesful so far, on a number of levels, so perhaps the break gave me time and energy to do that.

So what about this year?

I’m still not entirely decided. I am not booking any client work for the 6 weeks and 5 days that the children are off school and we are away for about 4 weeks of the summer so that leaves me a couple of weeks that I could do some work to keep my brain in gear.

Last year I didn’t read business books, read blogs, or do anything business related. It was so lovely to detach from what can be a draining online environment so I’m tempted to do the same again this year but remembering September’s struggle to get back to work I think a balance is needed. I’ve got a week to ponder so I’ll let you know what the decision is.

And more useful – I’ll let you know how it goes in September when I return from my break!

What do you do over the summer? Any tips you could share?