Can’t Close for the Summer? How to Stay Sane, Productive, and Still Have Family Time

Mom guilt.

It’s a problem we all face.

Even if you don’t have kids, you feel guilty about not spending time with your husband in the evenings, your family on holidays, or your visiting friends when work gets in the way physically or just in your head.

Summer is the worst time of all. Kids are out of school. Sunny skies and warm beaches beckon. Clients take extended vacations.

It can feel like the whole world is guilt tripping you when you need to get work done in the summer.

In a well-timed op-ed in the New York Times, novelist Amy Shearn examined why those of us who work at home experience greater mom guilt than most:

Being a writer means I’m, at very best, 77 percent focused. I’ll look up in the kitchen to see that while I’ve been scribbling story ideas on the back of an envelope, the kids have given themselves honey-and-peanut-butter facials…

Or else I actually do spend a day or a week fully engaged in mothering, trying to be present and fun, spending post-bedtime evenings not drafting pitch e-mails but organizing the paper dolls and inventing little projects for the next day, never handing the kids the iPad so that Mommy can do just a few more little edits on her short story. Predictably enough, during these times I feel guilty for not writing…

The mom-guilt is, I’m guessing, just part of the whole enterprise.

When you run your own business, it can be hard to just close up completely for the summer, especially if your earnings are important for your household income.

And even if it’s not strictly necessary, keeping up on your email, marketing activities, and future appointments can help you avoid overload when you get back and help you stay plugged in just enough so that don’t face a long ramp-up period trying to get back into the swing of things.

Try these five powerful techniques to organize your schedule and your work over the summer so you can avoid both mom guilt and work guilt as much as possible:

Forget the Sun. Rise with the Stars.

One freelancer I spoke to gets at up 3 a.m. every weekday to get as much work done as possible in the morning before her husband leaves for work and it’s her turn with her infant son.

It is far too tiring and extreme to be sustainable (all her hard work has finally paid off with enough work to send her son to day care full time), but a small dose of quiet morning hours every day can do a lot for your business.

Carol Tice, who runs a community with more than 600 hundred members as well as an award-winning blog, was shocked that she could fit her usual 8+ hour day of community maintenance into two or three hours in the morning when she was on vacation.

Skip Bedtime. Work at Naptime.

After the kids go to bed on a packed vacation, you’ll probably be too exhausted to get any productive, revenue-producing work done–especially on a vacation with outdoor activities (a recent trip hiking in Colorado left me totally tuckered every evening).

Instead of trying to work in the evenings, take advantage of the natural mid-afternoon, hot weather-induced siesta. On a relaxing vacation in the sun, it’s natural to feel drowsy after a heavy vacation lunch.

Encourage the rest of your family to laze around for a bit in the afternoon, grab a coffee or quick shower, and squeeze in a little productive time.

Prepare and Schedule.

If you have particularly needy clients, set an auto-responder on your email and voicemail detailing exactly when you’ll check for messages so they can relax and wait for your call instead of contacting you repeatedly till you respond.

Blog posts are easily scheduled (change the “publish” date in the “save and publish” box). And if you’re a social media maven, scheduled Facebook posts, tweets, and Google+ updates are your friend now more than ever. The one caveat with scheduled social media is to be sure that you keep an eye on current events so you don’t make it on a social media fail list.

If you don’t want your clients to know you’re away, you can schedule emails (single emails with Boomerang or group emails with Mailchimp), even with deliverables attached.

Create a Collaboration Network.

Do you have a self-employed buddy you exchange some work with over vacation?

While it’s always a good idea to have a goal partner or accountability group in your field for accountability purposes, in a pinch, you can even subcontract out work that comes in when you’re on vacation. You’ll take a hit, but it’s better than loosing the client.

After a serious medical issue, freelancer Mridu Khullar came up with some ways to handle sick days as a self-employed professional that are just as applicable for vacations.

She recommendeds keeping a list of important emergency contractors, like the one you would give your babysitter, with people you can call for a variety of services that make up your work. For her, it’s help with photography and reporting, but for you that may be a personal assistant service, fellow coach, or contract writer.

Reduce Now. Load the Future.

It’s a no-brainer to work some extra hours when you can to get your work finished before you head out on vacation. But that’s a double-edged sword.

If you finish all your up-coming work now, what do you do when you get back?

In addition to putting in extra hours on your paying work, you’ve also got to put in some extra time marketing before you take time off. This makes up for the marketing time you’ll loose when you’re off enjoying well-deserved family time, but, more importantly, it also (hopefully) ensures that you’ll have emails from clients waiting to schedule your services when you return to your normal schedule.

How are you staying on top of your work this summer?

Image courtesy of photostock at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Stein owns, is a college business professor and a mom to Gabriela and Elle. Lisa is dedicated to playing a part in helping women and moms run a business they love, help support themselves and their family and create a flexible lifestyle. You can find her online on Facebook and Twitter or at home burning something in the kitchen.