When I was on the tenure-track, I spent the month of August frantically uploading articles to Blackboard, maneuvering to get better classroom assignments for the courses I taught, and trying to wrap up my summer writing projects. The writing goals I had set at the beginning of the summer now seemed like a list of broken promises. Driven by guilt and disappointment, I’d work frantically to cross a few more things off that writing to-do list before the semester began.
What I should have been doing was taking a step back to celebrate my accomplishments from the summer. Academics tend to send themselves into a tailspin, convincing themselves that if they didn’t complete 5 grant proposals and 3 articles, prep 2 new courses, deliver a superb conference presentation, and go on a two-week vacation that they somehow didn’t use their time effectively or are a deadbeat. It seems as if we’re primed to focus on the negative, or what’s missing. When sh*t hits the fan in August once everyone realizes the new semester is right around the corner, writers succumb to the tyranny of deadlines, and their work suffers for it.
Yes, you made progress.
Look back on the progress you made over the summer because you definitely have made progress. If you said to me, “Jane, I did NOTHING over the summer,” I wouldn’t believe you. Once you acknowledge your hard work, think about what else you can fit in before you must return to campus, but don’t ask yourself “what else can I get done?” Instead, ask yourself, “what can I do well?” This means acknowledging that everything may not get finished. More importantly, it means acknowledging that your to-do list might have been unrealistic. That’s OK. A to-do list, just like the writing itself, is a work in progress.
If you’re tired of feeling guilty when you look at all the unfinished items on your to-do list, it might be time to take a new approach to making your list. I’m going to shamelessly plug my coaching service, the Productivity Pipeline. I work with clients who have all sorts of feelings about their to-do lists. Some are intimidated by the prospect of even making a list. Other clients have elaborate lists created with the help of apps, fancy stationery, and whiteboards that they spend hours making then promptly ignore. No matter what their approach, they work with me because they realize that writing (or teaching, or service, or any part of their job) is never as simple as writing a list and sticking to it.
Thursday, August 3rd, I’ll be LIVE on Facebook talking about how to wrap up your summer projects and get back into semester mode. I plan to start at 12 pm EST, but I’ll confirm the time on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/upinconsulting) on Wednesday evening. I hope you’ll join me!