12 August 2016 by Lisa Meloncon
This is one of those times of the year where panic and anxiety sets in a little (or a lot). Panic. Anxiety, you ask? Yeah.
It’s the moment you realize the fall term is around the corner, and you’re still staring at a summer to-do list that has very few things checked off. So anxiety starts to rise a little and you immediately start beating yourself up for all the things you didn’t get accomplished. You start the cycle of “where did the summer go?” and “what exactly did I do with my time?”
Think of this post as your permission slip. Yup, just like you were back in school.
Permission is totally granted to give yourself a break. I bet if you looked at what you did accomplish this summer you would be quite surprised. And don’t minimize the down time, the vacations, the extra time spent with family and friends, or the time you did simply nothing. All of those are key to your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
I’ve been writing a piece that uses the idea of orientation as a way to reorient how we think about things. As a one-time geographer and a long-time lover of maps, I like this orientation metaphor because it helps us to situate ourselves, it gives us a direction, but at the same time, it has the potential to be flexible so that we can reorient when necessary.
That’s my suggestion to each of us who starts down the path of rebuking ourselves over what we didn’t get done. Reorient to what we did get done, and also consider how to maintain these more positive behaviors.
Think about the last time you ended a day and the first thought wasn’t about all the stuff you didn’t do. My point is that we spend a lot of time and energy on the negative things. With a slightly different orientation, we can move from beating ourselves up to congratulating ourselves—and each other—on what we are getting done.
Here are three easy things that may help you reorient yourself and your thinking and your productivity:
- Be reasonable about your schedule: it is true that as you get more used to the oddities and ebbs and flows of this job you are better able to make plans and schedules that are reasonable and doable. But we should all try to have a daily/weekly to-do list that is actually doable. This way we have the opportunity to actually get things checked off.
- Be reasonable about time: part of the scheduling problems we run into is that we aren’t reasonable about how long things will take. Particularly with service or teaching tasks, we often way underestimate. There’s a great rule of thumb that I’ve seen all over places about higher education and it’s the Pi rule. Multiple how you long you think a task will take by Pi. It’s a pretty good rule and it helps to give you some padding in the schedule for unexpected events.
- Be reasonable about expectations: A lot of our current overproduction problems are tied directly to many of our expectations. I have said it repeatedly that your expectation and goal setting needs to be tied to your institution’s documents that effect your reappointment, promotion, and tenure. From there, make sure that you’re not setting goals and expectations that are so unreasonable that you’re setting yourself up to fail
Admittedly, I am the world’s worst at some of this—probably why I switched from you and our and we so much in this post. But one of my dearest friends told me this summer that I had to learn to be kinder to myself. He’s right.
It was at that moment that I mostly stopped beating myself up over things. So when I look at the list of things I wanted to get done this summer, I find I stop myself. Instead, I am feeling kind of good about what I did get accomplished.
I encourage you to do the same.
We all need to celebrate our accomplishments—big and small—a little more.
And this is a big giant step to being kinder to ourselves.