Best Practices/Making Life Easier: Summer = Break Time

By Brenda Bethman

In the previous best practices installment, Anitra wrote about summer projects — and I, too, have a list of summer projects that is longer that I can accomplish. For this post, I wanted to talk about the importance of making sure you find time to relax during the summer as well. As we all know, it’s easy to get wrapped up in summer projects and forget to take care of ourselves. So here are some things you can do this summer to refresh you:

  • Install an app like BreakTime on your computer and get out for some fresh air and sunshine every 1-2 hours (BreakTime is for Mac, but there are apps for Windows-based machines as well).IMG_1057
  • Go on vacation (or staycation) and turn off your email. Really. All the way off. It will be okay.
  • Play Dots (or some other addicting game).
  • Read a good beach novel — my favorite author in this genre right now is Elin Hilderbrand. Don’t like beach novels? Try a good detective novel — Yrsa Sigurðardóttir from Iceland is a great writer with a feminist protagonist.
  • Explore your area — is there a museum near by that you’ve never been to? Check it out.
  • Go to the movies.
  • Hit the beach.
  • Do all of these things at least once.

At the end of the day (summer), it doesn’t matter which you choose — the key thing is to remember to take some time to recharge and relax. Student affairs folks are notoriously bad at self care, so be sure to include some break time in your summer. The work and the projects will still be there after you get back. I promise.

How do you recharge and relax in the summer? Tell us in the comments!

 

Best Practices/Making Life Easier: Summer = Break Time

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: Travel Apps and Tech

By Brenda Bethman

It’s finals week here at UMKC. Combine that with what has become a fairly intense travel schedule, and I’ve got summer travel on the brain. This summer, I’ve got three trips coming up — taking students to St. Louis in May, a seminar in Germany in June, and a vacation in Wisconsin in July. Arranging and keeping track of all the details for those trips requires some assistance from technology, so for this edition of Best Practices, I want to highlight the apps I use to keep track of everything, as well as a couple of non tech helpers I use to make travel easier.

Apps and Websites

First the apps and websites — when making reservations, I rely on several sites for researching prices and then booking flights, hotels, etc. For flights (and more), I like both Expedia and Travelocity, and use both their websites and apps. I’m also a big fan of Booking.com, as I find their recommendations and reviews to generally be solid (I found two of my favorite places to stay in Frankfurt through Booking.com).

Hands down, my all-time favorite travel app — and the one that truly does make my life easier is TripIt. Available as a website, iPhone/iPad, Windows, Blackberry and Android apps, TripIt is the one-stop shop for storing all your travel information.

 

TripIt Welcome Screen
TripIt Welcome Screen

TripIt syncs between the website and my iPad/iPhone, so I always have the information for all my upcoming trips available. You can also set it up to auto import from an email account or simply forward emails to an address that then imports the information into the appropriate trip or creates a new one. TripIt will accurately import from most major airlines, hotels, etc., as well as OpenTable reservations. For some smaller companies, you may need to manually add the information. Since using TripIt, I no longer print out and carry a bunch of paper confirmations — it’s all on my phone.

TripIt also syncs with other travel apps and websites, including FlightTrack Pro, GateGuru, and TripDeck (just to mention a few). There’s calendar integration and social sharing (in case you want your Facebook friends to know your comings and goings) as well.

My other go-to travel apps (both of which sync with TripIt), are FlightTrack Pro and GateGuru:

Track your flights and find something to eat with travel apps
Track your flights and find something to eat with travel apps

As its name implies, FlightTrack Pro tracks your flights for you — need to know if your flight is on time or delayed? What gate it’s at? Just check the app and all the information you need is there. You can import flights from your TripIt trips or add manually. GateGuru is an airport directory on your phone, so when you’re delayed at that airport you’ve never been at before, you can find the bar closest to your gate (or food, or shop to pick up that last-minute souvenir for the folks at home). GateGuru also has reviews and has saved me from bad food on more than one occasion. Recent updates have added the ability to integrate with social media as well as the ability to check in on Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare from the app.

Organizing Your Tech

As I’ve mentioned here before (see here and here), I tend to travel with a fair amount of technology, which unfortunately means carrying a lot of small items (cords, chargers, dongles, etc.). Recently I’ve found two items that make traveling with all of those small items a LOT easier: Tom Bihn’s Clear Organizer Pouches and their Travel Tray. I use the pouch to carry all my cables and chargers, and the travel tray to get my phone, jewelry, etc. through security without losing things and as a place to keep loose items in the hotel room (again without losing or forgetting them).

Tom Bihn Travel Tray (in purple, of course)
Tom Bihn Travel Tray (in purple, of course)

The travel tray, in particular, really does make my traveling life much easier. I only wish I’d bought one sooner.

What about you? What tech or non tech essentials do you use to make traveling easier? Let us know in the comments!

Best Practices/Making Life Easier: Travel Apps and Tech

Summer Vacation

By Colleen Riggle

Yes, folks it’s that time again!  And thanks to Alice Cooper (and youtube) we have a song to celebrate!

While our friends in the Northeast and a few other exceptions have a few more days, most kids/people are celebrating the last days of school!  Whether in kindergarten or in graduate school the last days of school are probably some of the most exciting! It means a new freedom for a few months (unless you’re taking summer school), usually warmer weather and perhaps being able to read book(s) for leisure!

What do you remember most about summer?  Do you have a favorite summer tradition?  If you have small ones in your life, have you started any traditions?  Perhaps the “family vacation”?

Something that’s been on my mind lately it how technology play in to summer plans?  When you go on vacation, how prone are you to still check email? Do you respond or just skim? I’ll admit that I’m guilty of both, checking and responding! I find it hard to disconnect from the day to day messages that come in regularly but admire those who are able to fully disconnect!

With summer upon us how will be celebrate, spend your time and involve technology (or not) into those plans?  What’s on your summer reading list? What will you do if taking a staycation?  We have a staycation coming up in the next week and I’m actually excited to not have to pack a van, plan an itinerary, but instead be able to lounge around the house…well as much as one can with a 8mo old!

So whether you’re going on multiple trips, or no trips enjoy summer and all it has to offer!

Summer Vacation