During the school year, when I’m working nights and weekends just to keep up with teaching and service duties, I always think the summer is going to be full of butterflies and kittens while works of brilliance shoot out of my fingers into my laptop. I imagine high impact papers flowing quickly and easily from my brain to the editor’s desk to be met with tears of joy at the recognition of the brilliance I have shared. I also imagine happy children in a clean house with chores and crafts all checked off my list.
Clearly, I am delusional and have had either too much or too little coffee/sleep/food/exercise/wine.
In fact, I already put together my work and home “To Do” list for the summer and freaked out during finals week about “how far behind I was” and the summer hadn’t even started.
Nonetheless, I’ve already checked a few things off my list despite grading 150 undergraduate papers, attending the Organizational Science Summer Institute, and, unfortunately, discovering Candy Crush. If I can keep this up, I think I might actually have a productive summer.
There is no real secret here, except aiming for regular, smaller amounts of work with regular, scheduled breaks in the day. I’ve put together a combination of tricks/habits I’ve gathered from How To Write a Lot, the Pomodoro Technique, and this article on the importance of rest and breaks.
Practically, what it means for me is that I have a list of things I plan to do each week, which I put on Evernote. I divide them up into what I plan to accomplish each day, along with check boxes (control-C on Evernote) that represent 30 minute time periods I will use to accomplish this task. For the big research projects, I put 3 boxes, representing both the Pomondoro breakdown in work units and the advice on working for 1 1/2 hours and then absolutely taking a break. (I also have Focus Booster app on my laptop set for 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break) I plan for 3 one-and-a-half hour chunks of writing and research a day, with the rest of my time spent doing email/phone, administrative stuff, teaching prep, blogging, exercising and some gardening.
Doing that, one week into the summer, I am “two weeks ahead” on where I thought I’d be. Of course, the process only works with my booty in the seat and a To Do list to guide me. But I have a strategy and a plan and I am hoping to have a very productive summer. I’d love to hear what other folks do to keep themselves productive and sane over the summer. We can all benefit from others’ experiences.