Summer is right around the corner. Finally, three long months when you get to focus on your own writing. You’re either relishing the prospect of having long, uninterrupted blocks of writing time or you’re feeling like that much unstructured time is a recipe for disaster.
No matter how you’re feeling, it’s essential that you think about how to plan your summer writing. That way, you can make the most of your summer writing. When I say “make the most” I don’t mean write until the point of exhaustion. I mean that you can create a summer writing plan that gives you a roadmap for achieving your goals and doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re on a productivity hamster wheel.
Below, I share five principles for how to plan your summer writing (and one bonus principle!). If you follow these, you’ll be able to create a schedule that works
It’s easy to believe you can write everything over the summer. You’ll finish your book, send out an article, start the research for a new project, attend two conferences, and prep a new course. It all seems doable. After all, you have the entire work week to devote to your goals. There are no faculty meetings or papers to grade. Just you and your projects.
If you don’t already have a regular writing habit, you’re not going to be able to dive into a 30-hours-of-writing work week as soon as you grade your last exam. Even if you’re already capable of doing deep work, you likely won’t be able to write for 5 or more hours a day every day. If you’re just getting back into writing after a busy semester, start small.
Manage your time wisely
When you first consider how to plan your summer writing, your tendency might be to set deadlines for your projects and call your planning complete. That’s the first step, but using your time effectively requires more than just working towards a deadline. Create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Specific) goals to structure your time, so you know what needs to be done to reach your goals, when you have to do it, and how much time it’s going to take.
Create an accountability and solidarity system
Summer writing can be rewarding but lonely. While it’s great to work without anyone unexpectedly popping into your office, too many hours by yourself can feel incredibly isolating. Be sure to schedule regular coffee dates, ask a friend to be an accountability partner, or join a writing group.
Rest is essential. You don’t work well when you’re tired, and besides that, you simply deserve to take a break. What’s great about summer is that you can vary the length of your breaks, or simply incorporate breaks into your schedule regularly (like taking a half day every Friday, for instance). Also, be sure to plan for unexpected breaks. Give yourself some buffer time to accommodate for illness or any other surprise.
Review your progress regularly
Set regular goals rather than one goal for the end of the summer. That way, you can check in on your progress on a weekly and monthly basis. Assessing your progress regularly gives you the ability to course correct and adjust your goals if necessary.
Bonus Tip: Be indulgent
We often neglect to treat ourselves while working. Yet, for many – if not most academics – having extended periods of time to write is a luxury. So treat your writing and research time like the luxury that it is. Take your book to the park, buy yourself a fancy coffee drink during a writing session, or take a long walk to think through your ideas. These small acts might jumpstart new ideas (I don’t know about you but a change of pace or scenery usually works wonders for my creativity), or bring a sense of serenity to your work.