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