I’m feeling a bit like Olaf as I reflect on the joys of summer. This is one of the first summers in recent memory when I accomplished the goals I set at the start of the season. I made progress on several research projects in various stages. It felt good–and not like a launchpad for fall semester burnout.
These are the major take-aways from the experience to remember when preparing for another fulfilling summer next year:
Teaching an online class and service work will take longer than you think. I forget this and I must remember it each year. Several friends made Facebook posts about how much time they poured into preparing for and teaching their online classes, so I know I’m not alone. I also didn’t anticipate the number of advisee emails and other service work that kept coming through the summer. I will block out more teaching and service time when I plan my next summer schedule–because it’s going to take a lot of time whether or not I want to admit it.
Have multiple progress charts, not a linear list of goals. I ended up meeting my summer goals, but not on the timelines I set. In addition to the challenges reported in this prior post, I found myself struggling to polish an essay in August. When I let go of that and allowed myself to work on a different project, I was much more productive. Then I turned back to the struggle essay a week later, and it was much easier to make progress. From now on, I will think of each project like a thermometer you’d see for a fundraiser. As long as I’m making a bit of progress on something, raising the temperature on one thermometer, I’m in good shape. That logic flies out the window if there’s a deadline for a conference or a publication and I have to pick away at a particular piece, but it’s a sound strategy for self-imposed deadlines.
Nurture self and surroundings. That’s a cheesy label, but it works. I took about 4 weeks total of vacation with family and friends. Throughout the summer, I made time to exercise about 4 days a week. I spent a bunch of time working in my garden as well. One challenge is that I like to do everything in the morning–exercise, write, tend the garden. But something has to be pushed to afternoon. One solution I found was to work in the morning, garden a bit, swim in the afternoon to cool off, and work a little more. A summer afternoon run is often unappealing, but a swim is just perfect.
Find a screen porch. That may sound elitist (and it only works in the right climate), but I have to confess that I loved doing work while sitting on my screen porch this summer. We just celebrated our first year in the house, and I never knew what I was missing until we moved in. If we ever move to a place without a screen porch, I will have to borrow a friend’s. Working on the porch meant I didn’t have to choose between staying inside, letting the summer pass by without me, and trying to do school work work outside–battling bugs, wind, and glare. The pleasant surroundings made me more productive because I liked being there. And I got to see interesting sights like this red fox who traipsed through my yard.
Carry it through. So can any of this advice apply to the school year? I’ll continue to exercise and spend time in my surroundings, even if they’re snow covered. I will also remember the multiple progress charts: If I can’t push through on one project, I’ll turn to another and chip away at that. Hopefully the summer provided both the rejuvenation and momentum to carry through another school year. And in about 8 months the summer breeze will again blow away the winter storms.