The Summer That Wasn’t

Hi! I know that I mentioned taking August off but the research factory resumes paying me today and I thought some reflections on the summer were in order. 

I’m on a 9-month contract at Purdue and generally take the summers off. Every fourth year or so I’ll teach a summer course. It’s also not unusual for me to do grant work over the summer (organizing data, doing analysis). But typically I use summer as a time to recharge.

However, I decided to work this summer because we are in a pandemic. 

When I made these goals in May, I recognized they were ambitious. Four new(ish) manuscripts, data collection on two projects, redesigning two courses into a new learning management system, and the most important–submitting my tenure packet. Thankfully, several of them had hard deadlines which made planning easier. I completed the list on Friday.

Working through ten substantial goals led to several key observations.

Observation 1: Having unstructured thinking time is critical in creating intellectual work. Without the restrictions of meetings, or classes (or the travel time and prep associated with those), I could spend hours building arguments in different manuscripts.

Observation 2: My semester-life is not my summer-life and therefore I should not expect the same amount of work product at the end–it’s near impossible without giving up the other things that are important to me (running, food shows, watching Murder, She Wrote).

Observation 3: Working through the summer has made me less anxious about fall productivity. However, this could also be a result of submitting my promotion and tenure documents. I feel less pressure to get things out because I won’t be re-evaluated again for two years (assuming I earn tenure. we’ll cross that bridge if it happens).

Observation 4: Writing every day for an hour works for me.

Observation 5: Writing in large chunks works for me but only at the end of the process. I still plan to schedule my daily writing (60 minutes at the start and end of each day) but will block out large chunks when the manuscript is mostly complete to flush things out, etc.

Observation 6: I’m taking next summer off regardless of the status of the pandemic.

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