As the semester got busier, chances are you started saying “I’ll get to that in the summer” about a lot of things, especially writing. At this point you’ve probably got a list that is roughly “Write all the things.”
Of course, you will feel a lot better at the end of the summer if you’ve actually accomplished something. But the fact is, you also need to rest. That means focus. Your plan for the summer will need to include the important things and the urgent things; real rest and working in restful ways.
You may still be anxious about all the things you wish you could fit in. How about figuring out what you won’t be able to get to?
Be compassionate with yourself.
Your plan, with its priorities, boundaries and slack, is part of a larger process of creating a sustainable pattern of working. It will be more productive and more enjoyable in the long run.
Allow yourself to do this imperfectly. Think of what you do now as “How it is this year”, rather than “How it is and evermore shall be.” Every year gets to be different.
Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.
You choose your top priority by selecting the project that would feel best to make progress on. I highly recommend using the summer to do things that are hard to do in term time, things that require extended focus for example. I’ve explained this process in more detail in these two posts:
Summer Writing Plans goes into more detail about what benefits from long intense periods of focus, and what can be done in short bursts of time during term.
Schedule Writing Retreats offers a model of long intense focus on a writing project that is NOT binge-writing.
I also talk about the quality of time available and the kinds of work you can do in that time in my short guide Finding Time for your Scholarly Writing.
Make sure you are not attaching magical outcomes to particular tasks.
Be realistic about what you can accomplish.
Don’t get surprised by normal stuff. Sometimes I put “lunch” and “walk the dogs” in my calendar to remind myself that those things take actual time that I can’t spend on anything else.
Regular breaks, exercise, good food, and rest make you more productive. Spending time on those things is never a waste of time.
Take the weekend off.
Or at least observe a sabbath (which just means 1 day in 7, holiness optional).
Write every working day. Non-working days are important, too.
I’ve written a separate post on how to take the weekend off, because you aren’t the only one who struggles with that.
The downside of autonomy is that you are the only one who is going to set limits on what you do. If you have perfectionist tendencies, then it’s going to be pretty tough.
In my Perfectionism tag, there’s lots of posts which give some helpful hints on recognizing your priorities and dealing with those perfectionist tendencies. Here are a few other blog posts that might be helpful:
- The importance of your vision
- Do you overexplain
- Responding to pressure to apply for a research grant
- It’s not too late to adjust your plans
If it doesn’t all fit, then it doesn’t all fit.
No amount of pretending that you can write that article in half the time, is going to make it so. Go back to Prioritize, and Renegotiate.
Remember to breathe. You can do this!
Would you like support?
If you’re reading all this and want some help with making these things actually happen for you, then you’re in luck! The Academic Writing Studio provides just enough structure to support your writing through the summer and beyond via A Meeting With Your Writing weekly writing groups. The Studio also includes quarterly planning classes with dedicated group coaching and monthly Office Hours for extra worries.
Learn more about how the Studio can support your summer plans.
Academic summer resolutions by Helen Pallett provides a nice example of one way of approaching summer.
Thoughts on summer writing by Janine Utell gives a good sense of how one academic structured her summer and made decisions with lots of links to other resources
How to Restart your Writing Practice: A Few Ground Rules by Tanya Golash-Boza
Edited 29 March 2016; related posts last updated 26 March 2019; information about the Studio added 16 April 2019 and updated June 2021.