As the long summer break nears an end and the beginning of the academic year looms larger on the horizon, you may have a tendency to panic about your writing and research.
You wonder whether you’ve done enough over the summer.
You fear that you won’t get to it at all once teaching, student advising, and meetings return, not to mention once you have student work to mark.
Extra fear and panic may be induced by how close your next review is, whether you are up for confirmation or promotion, or the proximity of some institutional performance measurement exercise.
The panic is normal.
We all doubt ourselves sometimes. No one is so self-confident they don’t panic a bit every once in a while.
The key to loving your work, sustainability and all the rest is how you deal with the panic when it arises.
Let’s look at what might be causing that panic and see if we can address some of the underlying issues.
Has writing/research become seasonal?
Have you ended up in a pattern where you focus on research and writing during breaks in the teaching year?
The seasonality of writing will always be there. You have more time and more long stretches of undivided time when you aren’t teaching. There are ways to engage with your research and writing during those periods that just aren’t available during term.
However you can write during term time.
Turning Your Summer Research Plans into Autumn Research Plans
In a post about Summer Writing Plans I suggested “The kind of writing you want to prioritize in the summer is the kind that really benefits from long stretches of time and intense focus.” and that you don’t necessarily want to finish things in the summer.
I’ve also made an analogy between term-time writing and the kind of food you pack for a long hike. (Are you tempted to binge write in the last few weeks of the break?) In my experience, leftovers make great snacks.
Go back to those projects you’ve been working on this summer. For each project:
- list tasks that remain; break down multi-step items into separate tasks for each step
- put an estimate of how long each will take in parentheses
- Use a symbol to indicate things that are interruptable (e.g. proofreading is something you don’t actually want to get immersed in so being interrupted and starting where you left off works really well)
- sort your tasks into separate lists for interruptible tasks, and then different time periods (<15 mins, 15-30 mins)
Now you have a list of stuff that can be done in the more awkward bits of time during term. Doing things on this list will move your writing projects forward.
This post was originally published on Aug 4, 2014. It was edited to include content from another post published Aug 13, 2014. It was edited again August 3, 2015.