Tag Archives: summer

Saying No to Sunday

just say no

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Summer isn’t that long for us nerds. Once you get through with conference travel (yes, fun but also work), service for on-campus events, and the sheer amount of administrivia that comes with the end of the FY, summer is boiled down pretty quickly. Summer is a great time for us to read, write, think, and have the time to actuall do both things without constant interruption. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also been taking full advantage of the time to take care of several life tasks to keep my adulting game going strong, but I keep pretty regular hours during the summer too.

One habit I try hard to NOT engage with is working on the weekends in the summer. We had a large grant due recently and my writing team wasn’t planning ahead, leaving much of it until the last minute. The Friday before it was due, the PI said to me, “want to work on this on Sunday?”

“No. I don’t work on Sunday’s in the summer.”

I caught the guy off guard. He replied, “Oh!” pretty surprised and his face widened out at my response.

“It’s the one rule I try and give myself in the summer. I’ll be on the grid first thing Monday morning to finish this up.”

“Well, alright, good for you,” he rebounded.

Why bother telling you about this? Because BOUNDARIES. It’s the only thing I try to NOT do during the summer and here I stood, being asked to do it. Dang it! New faculty me three years ago would have been all, “ok, but just for a couple hours” but New faculty me in the present gave it a “hell no, I won’t go” as quickly as I could. Yes, I considered it, but then realized we had several days to get this together, not mere hours.

I enjoyed my Sunday-went paddle boarding and enjoyed my day in general.I was pretty proud of myself and quite content with what I did instead of running to campus. My friends/family were also properly happy for me-saying no is hard for me. Whether it’s because I’m a female, a minority, a young faculty member, or I just have a hard time saying no, follow my example, follow Nancy Reagan, and “just say no.”

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Steamrolling Into Summer

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source: I took this, that’s Henry!

I feel like I’ve barrel rolled right into summer. In case you’re wondering, it was a very clean barrel roll with no big rocks on the path. I don’t know how it happened but I thought I just got back from overseas…. A quick trip home helped my mental state but it added up and the driving alone was a pain in my ass (really, my lower back was screaming). A quick trip to the chiropractor straightened me right out (pun totally intended)!

Alas, graduation and the pomp and circumstance (pun intended again) that goes with it is in full force. Taking advantage of the time to not be on campus, I started to pretend an adult lives at my house who cleans things. The the ritualistic nature of stripping the covers off of the couch cushions, the shame and pride of vacuuming a semesters worth of crumbs out of the couch, and the nice smell that the febreze has when I deodorize the couch and love seat is my internal trigger that the seasons have changed and so has the semester.

There’s other things that trigger the changing of my academic seasons. Move out will and has taken full force, summer happy hour emails have been sent for standing invites with friends, and conference season kicks off in just over 48 hours. Why enjoy that first week of summer when you can get on a plane and hit up your first conference? Relaxing is for quitters…..

We don’t realize what a frenetic rush we put on ourselves as young faculty members. I had not been sleeping well since coming back from overseas and while I could only use the excuse of jet lag for so long, there were so many things to take care of. This coupled with taking a month off to go abroad, on top of whatever else I’ve been up to made sound sleep this elusive thing I chased. I even hung some Tibetan prayer flags over the bed hoping it would catch some good prayers and they’d turn into good dreams or good sleep. It took the internal ‘click’ of the semester for me to sleep like a log for the first time in weeks for a solid 8.5 hours before I stirred and heard Henry moving in his crate to let me know it was time to get up and play.

USDA grant season has slowed, I’ve got a NSF due next week, a NIH in June, and another one (can’t remember the acronym) in early August. I feel like I have one more but honestly, I can’t remember…My pubs for the calendar year are published-looking shiny and real and I am already scheming of what to push out for 2017. I have plans to push out two more this summer for hopeful publication next year. Gotta keep the wheels turning right?

I have blocked out my summer calendar now that summer projects have been decided on and blocked out travel. Two conferences, a week in CO, and then home to the farm. In between, I have plans to read, write, evaluate, work on grants that are currently funded, work with undergrad and grad students that have been hired, and heck-NOT work weekends, evenings, or before a normal time of day (normal is defined as “when the sun gets out of bed”).

All the pre-planning is letting me do one very important thing: it’s giving me permission to slow down. Blocking out the time gives me space to think, write, and read. I ordered 14 books the other day so I better have some time to read (and yes, they’re all for work). Slowing down in summer doesn’t mean productivity lags, it means I actually have time and give myself permission to do the things I can’t afford to do when there’s a room full of students, a pile of things to read, and researchers all staring at me for answers. The grant work alone I’ve neglected is enough to fill several weeks.

August will be here soon enough, but today, May whatever it is, I’m going to slow down. Downshift my internal engine, sleep through the night without interruption, and work through the massive pile of books that will be delivered when I get back from my conference. Now that the couch is clean and my house looks like a living, breathing human who doesn’t hoard a pile of shoes somewhere near the door lives here, I can steam roll right into summer.

 

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Summer Habits Worth Keeping

Summer Habits {New Faculty}

It’s officially summer! Well, in my neck of the woods it is. Town has settled into what will be the norm, students are stressing over summer classes on Yik Yak, and there’s enough construction going on to build a whole new campus by Aug. 15th. I discussed my summer schedule last week but wanted to follow up with one more post about how to set up to be more successful over the summer. As I draft this post, it’s about 9:45 a.m. and I’m at the local coffee shop. Having just enjoyed a breakfast sandwich and currently listening to them staff vacuum out the roaster, I cannot help but think about how much I’m enjoying the ambiance of the white noise. (A shop vac is totally white noise and necessary for cleaning a roaster).

I need to have some schedule disruption to keep myself on my toes. Schedule disruption can come in the form of a change of scenery, a change of pace, or a change in the schedule as a whole. Changing up the schedule helps me in numerous ways:

  • I can plan my work and writing. I have a trip next week, guess what I’m doing this week? Getting ready to be out of the office. Having a deadline (or a trip) helps me get ahead by planning more efficiently.
  • I’m choosing different days to swim (or other activities) each week (yes, I realize those choices are limited), but since it’s summer, I can take a little bit longer of a leash and swim when I want or feel like it, not when my calendar dictates me to do so.
  • I head to a coffee shop or somewhere different at least one half day a week. I like certain places, but I also know I need to be disrupted a little bit too.

It sounds a bit silly, but I grew up on a schedule at school and with extra-curricular’s, but I also grew up on a working dairy farm where changing things up was the norm. If the hay was dry, you baled it; if it was going to rain, you made silage. If a cow was calving, you helped her, even if that meant it was the middle of milking time. Schedule disruption has worked for me because it keeps me on my toes cognitively. I was in a rut this spring and it was largely due to the same schedule every.single.day with no changes whatsoever. My life was over scheduled and I experienced burn out.

On the opposite side of the coin, I like the schedule too. I like writing group and having goals. I’ve already polished, edited, and submitted two manuscripts since classes ended. I’ve coded 2/3 of another data set and have begun piecing together that manuscript and while it’s in its’ infancy, the pages are coming together in my google doc. My goal is to submit that before summer sessions end. I’ve reached out to collaborators to get other projects polished and finished. I’ve set aside time for the tasks and also written in my calendar ‘VACATION’ to make sure I give myself a break. I’m taking an unprecedented amount of vacation this summer (for me) and am looking forward to it all.

As the summer settles in and the long days begin, remember to keep things fresh for yourself. Skip out an hour early to enjoy the day, head in an hour late to enjoy the pristine mornings, and do what works to keep your head in the writing game. Find your own happy-medium with all of it, remember that I’m just telling you what works for me. Being over scheduled killed me this spring, traveling for a month straight does the opposite in a different way. Since I live alone, I can always tell how much I travel based on how much garbage I make. May = 1 bag of garbage. My house is currently enjoying having someone in it for at least half of a month and I’m enjoying a nice 50/50 split between scheduled and unscheduled time.

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Manageable Summer Goals: A Summer Day

A Summer Day {New Faculty}

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A full week into summer and I’m still riding with my training wheels. My Monday Morning Motivator email was titled, “You Should Be Writing” and darn it, it was right. I’ve set myself up well. Given myself manageable and realistic expectations. Now, just the hard part: meeting them.

A colleague has organized a summer writing group and I gladly signed up. It begins next week. I’ve been trying to set myself up each day with 1-3 realistic goals. For example, I did some data analysis this morning to help a student get a poster done and sent to the printer. The data had been transcribed and coded and just needed to be more organized to help pull out the major themes. Time spent: ~1.5-2 hours.

I spent a good thirty minutes this morning doing some housekeeping. I still had not submitted receipts from a trip a few weeks ago and wanted to get those off my desk. I had also neglected answering email for a few days (it was the weekend) and took a few minutes to get that done. Time spent: ~30 minutes.

After a lunch swim (yay for summer swim time), I sat down and coded for another two hours. I cannot code for more than a few hours a day. It makes my brain fuzzy, it makes my eyes hurt, and it’s one of those “all consuming” research activities. Instead of setting myself up to fail, I’ve given myself one document (roughly 30 pages) to code at a time. I have to get up and take breaks while coding too. I just can’t sit there and power through like some can. I will say that not every page of every document is “codeable” as some are lists and graphics, but each one will take at least two hours. Time spent: ~2.5-3 hours.

What else did I get done today? Quite a few things. I organized another mess of data into readable, accessible, and easy to find for all the researchers folders in the google drive. I spent some time on that because we’ll reference that for the rest of the summer and spending time on it now means it will hopefully be easier for me (and everyone else) for the next few weeks. It made my organized brain very happy. Time spent: at least another hour.

Does that equal EIGHT? NO. No, it does not. I stopped before 4:30 p.m. since a grad student stuck her head in to say hello and I recall looking at the clock. I said I was at a natural “stop point” for the day and didn’t want to pick anything else up since I knew I had to leave soon. She then “busy contested” me and said how she’s got 60 hours of work every week. You go tender grad student, you go….right out of my office….I don’t play that game.

Why am I sharing my day with you? For a few reasons. It might strike you odd that I’m not counting each minute, that I’m swimming during lunch, and most importantly, I’m making the time I am working QUALITY WORK TIME. No distractions. Minimal “phone time” or “social media time” are involved during these periods. There are still days when I can’t put a sentence together, but these are days when I have a million meetings or I’m fatigued or distracted. I started closing my door as well this week. Why? For uninterrupted time to myself. I feel no shame. People know how to find me.

Summer time is quality time if you can figure out how you like to work. My colleagues are in and out during the summer and we each have our own style of work. Travel and vacation are scheduled in there as well, but each of us is figuring out how to get things done. I hope that all of my summer work days are this fruitful but I know some just won’t be and that’s ok.

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Setting Up for Summer Writing

Setting Up for Summer Writing {New Faculty}

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In no time at all, the last u-haul’s will leave and my sweet, adoring college town will return to the splendor that I LOVE. I love this town emphatically when the students leave. Only a few thousand stick around for summer to work, research, and live the good life and all of the camps don’t start for weeks. Oh. My. GAWDD. I cannot say enough about summer here.

That being said, the first week of summer here, I’ll be gone. And a few weeks after that. And again a few more after that….Hhmmm, summer…elusive and full of travel at present. Summer scholars will come, I’ll be working with them, we host some major events, and damnit, August already?

Summer as a faculty member, and a 12-month faculty member, is an odd thing. It seems like all faculty work a mere 9-month year, but I can assure you, 95% (or more) of us are toiling away all summer. Summer is the coveted time when there’s fewer students running around. With the burgeoning summer income for most universities, we also teach, continue to work with students in more relaxed settings, and above all, try and get caught up on research.

I cannot stress enough the importance of setting yourself up for summer writing. This blissful time is a great stretch to not only enjoy your life a little bit, but also try and push out that last bit of data, add chunks to get manuscripts out the door to reviewers, and set yourself some manageable goals for the upcoming academic year. While I’ve only been doing this for a few years, I’ve never had a summer dedicated to JUST writing. It’s always been filled with STEM summer camps, more camps, some writing, and taking some time off. This will be my first full summer on this job where I can really sit with some data and write some things. Yes, I’m also doing some summer camps, summer scholars, and you know….maybe not working on Sunday’s until late August.

Set yourself up so you’re not filled with regret in August. Regret? Yes, regret. So many times I hear, “I didn’t get enough done.” Trying my darndest, I want to NOT say that in August. Here’s how I’m going to tackle the monster:

Set manageable goals. Managing my own expectations will be the key.

Set deadlines for myself. Working with undergrads has helped me stay accountable. I just had this conversation with a colleague over the weekend (at happy hour) about how we manage that. Knowing that I had undergrad researchers waiting for me to read/edit/contribute helped motivate me to keep the ship moving.

Under those deadlines, map out what needs to be done to get to that deadline. Is it reading? Is it editing? Is it analyzing data or collecting it? Whatever it is, I try to be mindful and record what I need to do to get to the ultimate goal.

Execute my intentions and check in regularly. With myself mostly. I use Evernote to keep a running list of “to-do’s” but also employ google drive to collaborate with other authors. For me, it’s all about accountability to myself and to others.

Be accountable. You may need a writing buddy, you may just need an undergrad staring at you once a week, whatever it is, find a system that helps keep you accountable. Someone to say, “where are we with ____?” can be immensely helpful.

Most importantly: plan in some fun. Make sure you give yourself the respite you deserve. Your brain works hard and your wrists are probably pre-carpal tunnel (like mine), so however you decompress, pencil it in before anything else. It will help you create the remainder of your summer. If you know you need a day before and after a trip, pencil it in your calendar now so you don’t feel guilty later. If you think you might have a weekend event, pencil it in, even if it gets canceled, you’ve given yourself permission to not work and any extra will just be icing on the cake.

Summer can be a great writing win

 

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