Depending on your school’s academic calendar, summer might be upon you or at least close at hand. I’m already a week into the summer semester, and looking ahead at several weeks of teaching, grading, and conferencing. Every summer I set out with inflated goals and unrealistic deadlines: three months away from the normal schedule of meetings looks so promising on paper! However, it’s easy to end up with less progress than expected. Here’s a few strategies I use at the beginning of summer to make the most of the time.
- Use a calendar. Unstructured days without scheduled meetings and class times can be fabulous, but it’s too easy for that time to slip away. Making (and keeping!) appointments with myself isn’t my strong point, but having it on the calendar makes it less likely for me to make other commitments. Consider scheduling dedicated weekly or daily time for every major project on your summer to-do list.
- Make realistic estimates. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I find I’m more likely to end up over-committed in the summer than during the school year. After a week of work on my major projects, I like to take stock and use my actual progress to calculate the remaining time I’ll need to finish. It’s far from exact, but it helps me keep track of whether I can take on anything new.
- Plan ahead for fall prep. If you already know your fall schedule, it can be helpful to plan ahead for what needs doing. Time to review texts, revisit assignments, or create the syllabus for a new class can be found much more easily if it gets on the schedule now instead of at the last minute. Also, I find it’s great to have some “easy” tasks on the to-do list for when writer’s block hits on the big projects!
- Find a support group. For those of us off-contract, summer can be a blissful time without regular accountability. That can be dangerous. If your faculty center or graduate program has an existing research and writing group, consider joining to have check-ins and a sense of deadlines. Even starting an informal group with a few friends or colleagues can make it easier to stay on track.
Of course, only some of us are even off-contract for the summer, and summer teaching, administrative work, grant commitments, and other projects can easily take over the time.
What are your strategies for keeping summer work on track? Share your tips in the comments!
[CC BY 2.0 Photo by Flickr User T.Tseng]