Goodbye, July. You were a terrific month. I didn’t travel, but for me, that’s kind of a break. The weather was spectacular: warm days and cool nights. My garden flourished. I took a few 3-day weekends and read books–some for work, others not. I cleaned out my front closet. I drank rosé.
But now your friend, August, lurks around the corner. August means syllabi. And returning faculty. And retreats. And panicked students. I always think I’m ready for August and then suddenly it’s Labor Day weekend and I’m already behind.
But not this year! This year I will not let August get the better of me. If you read this blog regularly you’ll know that I value planning and lists. So before it’s August 23 and you’re wondering what happened to the first three weeks of the month, take stock and get ready for the semester/term/quarter and academic year that lies in front of you. Divide and conquer: what will the teaching and service demands on your time be? Is there anything you really want to accomplish in one of your courses this time? What’s something tangible you can do to make your thankless work on that committee a bit (or maybe even a lot) more tolerable? Go back to my post on balance and think about those anticipated and unexpected moments when you might be able to squeeze in some research time. Prepare for those by making a list NOW of the smaller tasks that you could do when that hour becomes available.
In other words, get ready. “But,” you say, “I’m organized. I want summer to last a bit longer. I don’t want to start making lists yet.” I can almost guarantee, however, that time will accelerate. That writing your syllabi will take longer than you thought it would. That when you get home from that department retreat on August 14 the last thing you will want to do is think about the Committee of Thankless Work. So do yourself a favor. Make even just one list now. Before your mind is racing. Before your plate is full (or fuller than it already is). August is a cruel month. You think it should still be summer, but the pace will quicken and suddenly it will be the first day of classes.
So while your head is still clear look at the expanse of the upcoming term and year and set some goals–big or small. If they’re big, break them into their smaller components. And then arm yourself with a couple of lists, plans, strategies–however you want to organize and name them. And then reward yourself by sitting outside with a cool drink and telling August that you’re ready.