21 May 2017 by Lisa Meloncon
I have grown to love the academic year cycles, and like most of us, I look forward to the breaks we have between terms. I’ve had the germ of this blog rolling around in my head the last few weeks, but I had trouble pairing it down to the most important things to do in the summer. So finally settled on the three Rs.
As move into the first part of summer (or wrapping up the last couple of weeks for you quarter term folks), it is the perfect time to rest, reorient, and to plan realistically.
Yup. It’s been a long year and the more relaxed pace of the summer gives you the perfect opportunity to replenish your mental and physical energy. Take some time to rest and relax to help you to rejuvenate. Without this, you’ll find yourself starting the fall just as depleted as you are now. Don’t forget to have lots of fun, which is something that we all need to do more often (cause can you have too much fun?!) It’s really ok to do nothing during the summer. That’s what resting and rejuvenating is all about. (And there’s a “psychological importance” to wasting time and taking breaks.)
Summer should definitely afford you the time and space to create more balance in your life and hopefully, to start to build some new habits that may carry into the fall. For example, I have to recommit to a daily exercise routine. I hope to have that habit rebuilt by the time the fall term starts. I am also sleeping as late as I want and not giving myself a hard time about it!
Maybe it’s because I’m feeling a bit nostalgic or the fear of moving to a new academic home, but this summer I’m going to be taking some dedicated time to reorient. In this sense, reorient means to think through what it is that you want out of this job, to think through a strategic plan to achieve it, and to figure out ways to get rid of those things that are causing stress and angst.
For many of us, we sometimes get caught up in the day-to-day of work and the real and assumed expectations that we lose sight of why we wanted to do this job. Being deliberate and reflective about what you like and what you want out of this job is an important summer task. It can help clear the mental debris so that planning for the summer is easier (and realistic) and hopefully, it helps you form a strategic plan for the upcoming year. I know I talk about strategic planning a lot. The reason is that it provides a material way of tracking goals and ensuring a sense of control over your life. There are so many aspects of this job that we cannot control. The one thing we can control is our attitude and approach to it. A summer reorientation can help.
For example, I know that my new job will be different in some ways, with different responsibilities. That means I need to reconsider some of the things I do now to determine if the passion for those things still remain and if I’ll have time to do those things. Framing these internal discussions through the lens of what I want out of (and need from) this job is a useful exercise to reduce stress, to make a plan, and to not over commit.
During a Mentor Monday earlier in May, Sarah Singer shared this:
With her permission, I include it here as a way to help you think through how to reorient your own lives and psyche. What would make you happy? This is not a frivolous question, but one that is directly connected to how we interact and to how we do our jobs.
Granted, we can’t get rid of every stressor, but we can definitely take the time to reorient how we think about those things and react to them. For example, many of us serve on committees that are ineffectual, but we also know that we have to sit on certain committees. Even though we cannot change the necessity of it, we can change our attitude toward it. It’s also possible if the situation is truly toxic to research potential replacements, that is, to give up one committee but offer to sit on another.
Let me go ahead and be the spoilsport. You probably won’t get all the things you want to do done this summer. That leads to the often-unhealthy cycle of working too much and then being too hard on yourself when you don’t get things done (that were probably not totally realistic in the first place).
So I beg you. Make a realistic plan. What does that look like? Well, it depends on the person and how you work, but typically, you’re only going to make headway on one thing and maybe some progress on two smaller things. These things can be any number of tasks from drafts, to final revisions, to reports that you know will be due, to new classes you’ll be teaching.
A good rule of thumb is to make a plan and then delete at least half of it. Yup, half. And if you’re resting and reorienting, delete 2/3 of it. What’s left is probably a realistic plan on what you’ll get done.
This realistic planning means you can spend more time celebrating your achievements and getting things done.
Good luck with your summers!
Wishing you joy, health, and peace!