Dear Faculty Relations: HELP! I’m in my third year in a tenure-track position and am freaking out. For the past two summers, I’ve had big plans for writing. I’ve fallen short each summer, and when I heard those July 4th fireworks, I thought, “Here we go again.” At the same time, I’m still exhausted from the past academic year. How can I manage the competing goals of finding time to recover (I have young children, so “me time” is limited) while keeping up with my writing to be “on track” for reappointment? - Save My Summer
Dear Save My Summer: Our empathy is through the roof! Those on an academic calendar, especially on a tenure clock, often cannot wait for summer. Then, summer hits, and we need to be highly productive AND recharge. This seemingly incompatible yet essential duality is heightened by the additional demands and stress of the pandemic.
We’ll start with the bad news. There’s no magic solution. You need to rest and write – most likely quite a bit of each.
Have you ever started the summer with a plan like: "finish 4 manuscripts, start 3 new ones, write 2 grants, and be fully recharged by the first week of classes”? Newsflash: this often doesn’t work. We might fail to meet these vague and unreasonable goals, leaving us feeling defeated, frustrated, and anxious.
Now, the good news. You can, in fact, both rest and work with some planning, structure, and organization.
Finally, advice. For your scholarship, set SMART goals. Determine what you can accomplish given the time and resources available. Set intermediate deadlines and specific goals that are 1) accomplishable and 2) focused on the work that is crucial for your reappointment/promotion. Get input on your plan from a mentor or colleague.
Now, rest. Plan your downtime and take that as seriously as your academic productivity. Make time for self-care. Sleep well, eat well, move your body, get outside, and, most importantly, breathe.
It’s not too late to get work done and rest this summer. Make a realistic plan and stick with it! And, it is just fine if that plan starts on July 6th.
Don’t let those fireworks get you down!
Written by Mimi Engel, Faculty Director, New Faculty Development, Office of Faculty Affairs, and Associate Professor of Research & Evaluation Methodology, School of Education, July 2022