Best Practices/Making Life Easier: Summer Projects

By Anitra Cottledge

When summer comes, we all – and I mean, all of us in higher ed – tell ourselves that this is the time to go back to that massive to-do list. This is the time where we will make some headway on that fantasy list of dream projects AKA all those things that we couldn’t get done during the fall and spring semesters.

There is some truth in this narrative that we tell ourselves. Personally, I’ve been able to get quite a few things done so far (and it’s still early on):

  • Some re-organization and thinning out of paper and digital files
  • Completion of small projects and tasks that had been lingering on
  • Beginnings of projects for next academic year

This is what we all do, in some way or another, during the summer months. So I don’t want to make it seem as though we’re all just telling ourselves a big lie about summer productivity. But, I do think that there are a few things we should all keep in mind when planning.

  • Be realistic. In addition to the things that have to get done, I also have a list of things that I want to do. There are all sorts of ideas that I want to explore, connections that I want to make. Some are tiny things that would only take a phone call or email to complete. Others are large-scale projects with many moving parts. This may seem like the obvious, but I can’t do them all. Yes, for our office, summer is three months with virtually no programming (except some trainings/workshops), but those are still months made up of days that still only contain 24 hours each (and truly much fewer hours if we’re just thinking about the work day). It pays to be realistic about what you can accomplish, both in the summer as a whole, and on a daily basis.
  • Pay attention to the ebbs and flows. I think that student affairs professionals are, by and large, already pretty good at this. The summer, just like the rest of the year, has peaks and valleys. Just as we are attuned to times of high and low activity throughout the year (e.g., Homecoming, semester breaks, Women’s History Month, etc.), we should also pay attention to timing throughout the summer. For instance, I think there’s a really productive window between the end of spring semester and the beginning of say, New Student Orientation. You may have various signature events that take place on your campus at different times, and depending upon your level of involvement in these events, those events can serve as brackets for your time and ability to get things done.
  • Build systems for yourself. There are lots of resources here on the SAWTT blog about how to build systems that work, and lots of tips about using technology to help you do this. Some people keep it “old school,” and jot down lists on sheets of paper. Some people use the Tasks list inside of Gmail. Some people (like me) use both. There’s color-coding, planners, apps, working in the coffeeshop on Friday afternoons, etc. It all depends on the resources available to you, the tactics that work best for you, and the nature of the tasks you have to accomplish. The trick is both finding those methods that work, that keep you moving forward, as well as having the flexibility to let the systems evolve over time.

What projects are you hoping to accomplish this summer? What are some tools/ideas that help you?

Best Practices/Making Life Easier: Summer Projects

Best Practices/Making Life Easier: The Art of No

By Anitra Cottledge

At the beginning of the semester, Colleen wrote a great post about best practices in technology that can help make your life easier. As we turn the corner into the thick of the semester, those tips continue to come in handy. I have another best practice that’s been on my mind a lot: the art of saying no.

I know that for a lot of us in student affairs, September and October are incredibly busy months. They feel like, as one of the student interns in my office said, they’ve been set to a soundtrack of “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

There are a lot of things that we can’t say no to: certain meetings, committees, events, etc. In fact, I would venture to say there are several parts of all of our jobs that we love saying “Yes!” to. September isn’t quite over, and I’ve had tons of moments that drive home why the work we do is important and impactful and joyful.

Recently, during a leadership retreat, I shared some snippets from an essay by Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat. In the essay, “I Pass On,” Danticat talks about how having passions is as much about letting go of some things as it is embracing others:

“I have had to sacrifice many destructive passions to make room for other positive and lasting ones. Indeed, when I unscramble the word Pass-I-On, I find, among other phrases, ‘I pass on.’ Thus my passions have as much to do with the things I let go as well as those I maintain in my life…I pass on crippling perfectionism and simply try to do the best I can in every situation. I pass on procrastination and try to accomplish my tasks, plain and difficult ones alike, one step at a time. I pass on parties and social calls and nights out in order to write in solitude, because I find myself more at ease in imaginary landscapes. I pass on saying things I don’t mean, so at least I can trust my own voice.”

I love this article, because it really makes me think about how saying no can be a help, and not a hindrance. Sometimes we have to say no to taking on an extra commitment, either in service to our own capacity and energy (or lack thereof), but also to leave room for others to take on things. To do a hat tip to Colleen’s post that I mentioned earlier, technology can help you do this, e.g., using your calendar to block off time for you to prep and focus, as opposed to leaving it open for others to schedule meetings.

What are some ways that you say no in your life?

Best Practices/Making Life Easier: The Art of No

Blog Prompt Monday

Today we’re asking you to take a look around and see who’s making the best use of technology – whether you feel like that’s just online or elsewhere.

What institutions/organizations do you feel make good use of technology and how? (This could include social media, web, and/or other forms of technology).

Tell us all about it! We want to hear – is it your institution or organization? Let us highlight them and promote your sites! We’re looking forward to reading your responses. Remember to post links to them in the comments below and tweet them out with the #sawomenblog hashtag.

Blog Prompt Monday