Setting Up For Summer

Summer Reflection | New Faculty

I’d like to quote the twitter handle, S*^t Girls Say….”I can’t believe summer is here already….” It appears that May brings the end of a semester and the **supposed** summer time slump. By slump I mean: some vacation time. I don’t know about you, but being a 12 month faculty has it’s advantages and disadvantages and one of those big disadvantages is: less ‘down time’ unless I take it. So, I’m taking it. Don’t worry.

As a new faculty (or late stage grad student) summer is a highly coveted time. We think, “I’m going to get so much done” and then we get realistic about things. My lofty goals of last summer turned into realistic goals when I suddenly realized it was July and I was barely halfway through my list of things to conquer for the summer. Needless to say, I’d set myself up for failure without meaning too. This summer, I’m going to be more realistic about it and set measurable goals, both personally and professionally, in order to keep myself accountable.

I encourage you to take a few moments to make your own list, starting with your successes this year and things that you can work on as plausible and attainable goals.

Before I make my list, I like to recap what I did this past academic year that has gone really well (positive before negative right?):

  • I survived. *round of applause*
  • I continued to work on my personal health, fitness, & well-being. Slow and steady wins the race.
  • I stood up for myself when I needed too. I’m learning that I may not be one of the ‘big dog’s’ in the room, but I’m also not a free doormat.
  • I got comfortable in a good way. I’m feeling less frazzled each day, even if my hair doesn’t reflect that during the humid months, about who I am as a new faculty, a researcher, and as a professional. There are still areas of gray, but overall, I’m feeling better.
  • I’m getting better at managing a mid-size herd of cats, I mean…people…..I collaborate a decent sized team (pushing 30 bodies not counting all the kids we serve) and some days: it’s organized chaos. I’ve embraced that it looks like herding turtles through peanut butter and am going with it.

Here’s what I need to work on this summer:

  • Take some solid time off. Really. Spring break was not restful for me and I have tried to push through only to fail. As a new faculty, I cannot stress this enough. Learn from my mistake so you don’t end up suffering like I have. 
  • Be kind to myself. Emotionally, mentally, and physically. I have incorporated strength training this spring and while I’ve lost some pounds, not as many because I’m hitting the weights. I have to remind myself of this since the scale is such a reminder for me. I need to give myself a break. Not the “you should eat this pint of ice cream” break but remind myself that there’s only 24 hours in a day and I need to not work for all of them. 
  • Grants and pubs. This year was very fruitful (4 articles at last check) but there’s always room for improvement. I also hope to continue to work on my grant skills. If I stay in the academic game, I’m going to need both of these.
  • Staying motivated. I have found myself in a slump professionally lately. I don’t know why. I think it’s my phd crisis or something. More on that in another post.
  • Setting aside proper time to do things. Here’s my sticky one. I am really good at managing so many things in my life but not writing time. Because it’s my least favorite thing to do. I’m also very vague about it, which is my own fault. I prefer to collaborate and I hate when another faculty tries to poach me and my work. I need to make a concerted effort to write or not at this point.
  • Finding more mentors in my professional career. I need to do this desperately in order to keep working on my professional vault of resources. I have some great people in my corner, but mostly I need to keep finding folks to be on “team new faculty” more regularly.
  • Stop being so selfless. This was a piece of feedback AGAIN from my immediate supervisor just last week and I need to keep carving out more time for myself. Serving others is wonderful but has once again exhausted me and I need to continue to figure out how to say no with a velvet lined hammer.

What’s on your summer list? Taking a vacation? What would you share as a new faculty to help other young faculty members?

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