This is what trying to be productive in the summer can sometimes feel (see photo above). Sure, the semester is over and you’ve got a few books to read until school resumes in the fall, but that’s for later, right? Why work when there’s sunshine and beaches and picnics and trips and friends? If you’re anything like me, however, the guilt will sink in days (if not weeks!) after you’ve absconded with your sunscreen and summer playlists. The dread settles in and you are now officially behind with your work. What to do? From my experience, I found that planning, discipline, and, believe it or not, lots of breaks will help you stay sane and productive throughout the blissful summer days.
- Organize your time well. For me, this is a skill I’m always working on. It’s easy to get derailed by binge-watching Arrested Development episodes, hikes with friends, and dinners and lunches with pals you’ve lost contact with over a semester (or five…). I have learned to use my Google Calendar more effectively by creating different calendars: work, school, and social. It allows me to categorize and organize my time by helping me keep track of everything I am doing/would want to do/have planned to do. It also allows me to see if I’m doing a poor job of balancing my time between work and play. It can get especially maddening during the semester, but with a little patience and some practice over the summer (when things are less hectic), these calendars can be very helpful.
- Make yourself accountable (or get a friend to answer to). When I was an undergrad, I had a professor give me the following advice: Say what you do and do what you say. Doing so is an exercise in accountability. You’d hate to renege on something you said you would do, particularly if that someone is a professor, an employer/supervisor, or a colleague. I can be terrible at this, especially in the summer, so it’s helpful to stay connected with your network of friends and colleagues to keep you motivated. Join a writing group that meets regularly if you need to write something over the summer (or if there isn’t one, start one!). Communicate with your faculty adviser or mentor and let them know your progress so that a) they’re in the loop and b) you have someone to answer to. Sometimes all we need is a little push to not look like slackers to get us to do something.
- Take breaks (and lots of it). It’s hard to feel like you’re missing out on summer when you’re shut inside a room or the library reading, writing, researching, or whathaveyou. Work efficiently—set up a writing or reading time for an hour and a half, and when time is up, leave/go out/stand up/walk around/etc. for a good 10 to 15 minutes. Sit on a bench outside, take a quick walk in the park, have a snack. Whatever it is, take a break. Working through the summer will feel less painful if you stop for a few minutes, look around, and enjoy the moment.
*Photo of a greeting card I received from my best friend when I graduated from college.