It might have snuck up on you, but summer (at least for most US faculty) is right around the corner. Especially if you have a heavy teaching load right now, I bet you’re thinking two main things. First, summer will be your long-awaited down time to finally rest and recover from the semester’s stresses. Second, you are likely thinking “I can’t wait for summer so that I can finally get back to my research and writing!” With no classes to prep and grade, it feels like you will have endless amounts of time to write, distraction-free.
But long periods of unstructured time can be particularly troublesome. How many times have you found yourself making lofty goals for a break, only to find yourself scrambling in the final moments to get the bare minimum done?
So, how can you set yourself up to have a productive summer from the start? How can you plan your summer writing productivity now?
Follow these steps now so that you can begin the summer with a plan already in place.
Professors, How to Plan a Productive Writing Summer: Scheduling
Make a Macro Summer Schedule
When summer begins, it feels endless. And, if you count the weeks between when your spring semester ends and your fall begins, you might also be lulled into thinking you have much more time than you will. In reality, you likely already have many summer commitments (moving, travel, weddings, etc.). You will likely be surprised at how much less time you actually have.
- Open your calendar of choice that allows you to see the whole summer at once.
- Strike out days when you will not or cannot work on your research projects. How much time is left (weeks or days)? Probably a lot less than you thought. Use this as motivation to get into your summer schedule directly after the semester. Additionally, doing this can help you “truly relax” on planned non-writing days.
- Review your existing external non-negotiable deadlines (conferences, R&R deadlines, etc.) and add those to your macro schedule. Note: do not make up your own deadlines for your writing projects. Doing so is likely to start a vicious circle of overly ambitious self-imposed, made up deadlines and guilt for not meeting them.
Make Your Full Swing Summer Time Map
If the goal is to establish a regular, sustainable summer schedule, you first need to know, concretely, what your regular week look like. In this step, you will use a time map, a template of your regular weekly routine, to lay out what your “default” weeks will look like once you get into the full swing of your summer routine. Time maps have two benefits. First, it drastically reduces your summer planning because you don’t need to make up each week’s schedule as you go. Second, defining what your typical week will look like once you reach your stride before summer starts shows you, concretely, what you will be working toward. You will use this “ideal” time map to get off to the right start in the first crucial weeks of summer.
- Open up a full week view in your calendar of choice or write down the days of the week on a blank sheet of paper.
- Think ahead to the middle of summer, once you’ve hit your full stride. Block off regular weekly non-negotiable commitments (weekly appointments, child pickup, etc.). This is a weekly template, not a specific week’s schedule, so don’t worry about one-time commitments.
- Now, block off time for the activities you would like to accomplish each day or week. Examples include: writing, teaching prep or curriculum development, moving your body, socializing, walking the dog, family time, meal times, etc. If you know when you are most focused and productive, try to reserve those times for writing.
Set a Summer Start Date
This might seem counterintuitive, because summer starts when you complete your semester commitments, right? In my experience, though, summer is sneaky because it has no real “concrete” start. Your brain does not like ambiguity, and will look for loopholes to get out of hard work. So, if you want to start summer writing off on the right foot, decide, specifically, when your summer writing schedule begins. In the first crucial weeks of summer, you will hold yourself accountable to a scaled-down version of your full swing summer time map. So, take this date seriously. Consider adding it as an event in your calendar of choice.
Ready for more?
Once you’ve taken care of the big-picture items above, turn your attention to your summer writing sessions, specifically. Then, read why how you start the summer is crucial and plan how to set yourself up for success.
What steps will you take now to set yourself up for a productive summer? What summer writing projects will you be working on? What productivity stumbling blocks have you encountered before during long unscheduled stretches like summer break? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
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