This article was originally published at Ideas on Fire on August 3, 2016.
A lot of academics dread August 1—after all, it means that September is merely a month away and classes (and committees and department meetings) are starting soon. Maybe you didn’t get as much writing done over the summer as you wanted, and are feeling anxious. Maybe you’re feeling nervous about teaching that new course. Or maybe you’re just melting from the heat and longing for fall. We academics are notorious for being hard on ourselves and neglecting self-compassion and self-care, and often feel guilty for enjoying ourselves when we feel we should be working all the time. But let’s interrupt that narrative.
The beginning of August is a great opportunity to re-visit your summer goals, evaluate your work spaces and writing routine, and make some concrete decisions that ensure you rock this final month of summer and go into fall excited and confident.
First, list out all the things you did this summer—all of it (you can use your calendar or social media feeds to remind yourself). Did you travel somewhere? Write 3,000 new words? Finally finish that revise and resubmit? Visit the beach? Apply for a new job? Read outside twice a week? Brainstorm an awesome idea for your next research project? Cook more? Meet new people? Write it all down. And celebrate your accomplishments!
Next, list out the goals you had for the summer. Maybe you wanted to finish writing your book, complete or revise some dissertation chapters, design your fall syllabi, read a bunch of novels for fun, or spend more time with your friends. Think about your professional AND personal goals here. Take note of what you have made headway on, what you finished, and what you haven’t gotten to yet.
Keeping an eye on all those awesome accomplishments, answer the following:
- What activities, habits, environments, and interactions have been working well?
- What activities, habits, environments, and interactions do you want more of?
- What activities, habits, environments, and interactions do you want less of?
From your list of summer goals yet to be accomplished, see what you can delete or reschedule. Did you really need to submit five conference proposals, or are two enough? Would your dissertation really suffer that much if you read one less journal article and instead spent that time on self-care? Can that book chapter you haven’t started yet be finished in October instead of two days from now? Do you really need to completely redesign your fall course or can you maybe revise a few lessons instead? Think realistically here: the month of August is a good chunk of time, but it isn’t eternity. What can you prioritize completing in the next month and what can you cut?
Let your answers to the assessment questions guide your plan for August. Did you love reading outside? Incorporate that practice into your goal to finish reading your comps list. Do you want less time sitting in an office and staring at screens? See if you can do some of your writing by hand in a cafe or by recording yourself during long walks and then transcribing that material later.
Reviews like this help you celebrate your accomplishments, assess how you actually worked and how you feel about that, and make a concrete plan for changing or maintaining your daily practices in the future to accomplish new goals.
Have a wonderful August!