Summer… a time of planning and renewal

In the academic world, summer is a time for rest and rejuvenation, but it's also a time for creation.  During the summer break, new classes are created and familiar ones are tweaked.  After the end-of-semester rush, many folks take a needed break.  I'm all for it, as it's real important to pull back, recharge, and rest.

But it is also important to tackle some of the things that need to happen before fall hits.  And waiting until the last month, or even the last few weeks, means that quality will likely take a hit.

Even worse, when there are nagging projects you are attempting to ignore, there is a part of you that can't ignore it.  You try to squelch the worry or concern, and sometimes you're pretty successful.  But it's always there, making your rest less restful and your fun less enjoyable.  And then the tension builds when the brevity of the remaining summer suddenly hits you… especially if it's just before your scheduled travel plans!

You don't have to do it all at once.

You just have to get started.  Lay out what you would ideally like to have completed and a rough timeline to do it. 

Remember that it's not about sacrifice.  So give yourself time to enjoy yourself, family time, exercise, and time for tasks that can best happen in the summer.

In fact, you'll find that regular attention to your work during the summer will mean you won't have to sacrifice as much in the late summer, when you would be scrambling to get everything done (or say, "Well, maybe next year.").  And what you do now will make your fall semester go that much more easily, perhaps even allowing you the freedom to do other things you would prefer to do, whether work-related or personal.

The best thing about laying out your plan early is you get to do the things you can't do easily later on, even if you believe you work best under pressure.  Things like:

  • putting things in the right order… e.g., review notes you made during the semester before you start revisions;
  • asking colleagues for ideas or suggestions, before they head out of town for the summer;
  • searching for new texts and having time to review them;
  • linking travel for research with travel for fun;
  • being clear about your goals and projected time needs, so you can plan and receive support from those folks with whom you share your life… like family;
  • and, perhaps most impotantly, allowing sufficient time for your natural creativity to do its work… naturally, unfettered by artificially small time constraints.

Read that last bullet again. Creativity — even yours — takes time. Expecting miracles of yourself will leave you frustrated and "justifiably" self-critical.  And we all know how useful that can be.

Your turn

  • What do you need to get started?
  • How much time do you need to decompress before you begin planning for the summer? Be fair to yourself so you get a decent break, but be fair to yourself by not granting yourself more time than you need to get moving.  Remember that the first step is to plan your work and your strategy.
  • Map it out. The more precise you can be, the better.
  • But don't make it so restrictive that you feel abused by the schedule. It's just a schedule. If something comes up that intrudes upon your schedule, feel free to flexibly schedule your work-time around the conflict.
  • Tell the people in your life what you're doing, gather their support and committment to help you achieve your goals.  And, listen to their concerns and fears about losing you for the summer.  You can have both.
  • Start early.  Keep it up.  Review your progress regularly.
  • Arrange for a way to be accountable for your time and progress.
  • Hire a coach if you want to make this the most productive summer yet. Look for the upcoming offer for short-term coaching.

To your success! I'd love to hear your thoughts.

-Steve Reiter
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