Will You Waste Your Summer Fridays?

Last Updated May 25, 2011 11:28 AM EDT

Summer is here again, which heralds the return of white pants, barbecues, and that curious tradition known as summer Fridays. Facing the reality that people are going to leave early anyway, many offices close for Friday PMs.

It seems like a great way to savor the relaxed pace of summer. You daydream all year about the leisurely joys you'd pursue if you only had an extra 15 minutes in your days. Practice the flute again! Cook real meals. Exercise. Take long bike rides.

But here's the funny thing. When summer Fridays roll around, and those extra few hours appear, people have a tendency not to do any of those things they'd claim they'd do.

Why is that?

I think it amounts to a failure to plan. Yes, I know that planning your leisure time sounds dreary -- and like a contradiction in terms -- but it doesn't have to be. Indeed, I believe that free time is far too precious to be totally leisurely about leisure. If you want to make the most of your summer, do these three things:

1. Recognize how much time you have. There are 14 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day, which comes out to 2352 hours. This is a vast amount of time, though not an infinite amount, when you remember that you'll sleep for some 784 of those hours, and probably work for at least 480 (even if you do take some vacation). That leaves a bit north of 1000 hours for devoting to other things. Keeping this number in mind can make you thoughtful about how you'd like to spend these hours.

2. Figure out what kind of memories you'd like to make. Make a list of experiences you'd like to have this summer, and have your family members do the same. Wouldn't you love to know that your kids want to try canoeing? That they want to camp out in the backyard or on the beach? Once you know that, you can...

3. Block it in. A canoeing trip in a nearby state park could take 6-7 hours -- which means you'd have plenty of time if you started at noon on Friday. So choose a Friday, figure out what you need to do to rent a canoe and pack your bags in the morning. Everyone loads in the car as soon as you're off work and by evening you've had an adventure together, before you even get to the weekend. That sure beats coming home, watching TV and wondering why summer is slipping away.

What will you do with your summer Fridays?

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Photo courtesy flickr user, owlpacino