Five things that helped me survive summer

A couple of days ago over at ProfHacker, there was a post (by all the contributors) listing five things—technologies, activities, random items, etc—that helped them get through the summer, made them more productive or happier, etc.  (Suprisingly, I haven’t seen too many other academic bloggers pick this up, other than here.)  I thought this was an interesting exercise and decided to give it a whirl.

So, here are my five things:

  1. Google Docs. This has been indispensable for my work this summer.  I’ve always had a very hard time getting my research students to maintain up-to-date notes and documentation about their work.  This summer, we decided to use Google Docs for this purpose.  It is so nice to have a complete record of all of our notes, crazy ideas, paper drafts, etc all in one place, all easily accessible and editable by everyone.  I’m also using it in two other collaborations—planning a linked course for Fall 2011, and planning a regional conference.  I’m not sure how I effectively collaborated without it!
  2. Running/daily exercise. I’m one of those people whose brain cannot function if the body has not been moving.  I need exercise to keep my sanity and keep my head clear.  This summer has been one of the few in recent memory that I haven’t been injured or sick or otherwise unable to run for part of the summer, and it’s been wonderful rediscovering the joy of running.  It makes getting up at the buttcrack of dawn much more bearable.
  3. A super support system. Peer mentors are a powerful thing.  I have a wonderful group of women whom I meet weekly for coffee.  Sure, many of these “working sessions” (ahem) turn into gossip fests, but they are also places for encouragement and butt-kicking.  We share each others’ successes and brainstorm ways to get each other unstuck.  We share information and strategies.  We keep each other sane, on-track, and laughing.
  4. A great group of research students. Selecting research students is always something of a crap shoot:  just because a student is bright in the classroom doesn’t necessarily mean s/he will be good at research, because the skill sets are somewhat different (a point I discussed in a previous post). Over the years, I’ve been mostly lucky in this regard.  This summer, my students have been especially strong.  They work very well together as a group, and individually as well, and have pushed our research way beyond what I expected this summer.  Most days now they shoo me out of the lab so that they can get work done!  Working with them has allowed me the time and space to concentrate on other aspects of my work as well, and to think more clearly about the future of my work.
  5. Interlibrary loan and ebooks (tie). I am almost certain that I have checked more out of the library through interlibrary loan this summer than I have in my previous 7 years at Carleton combined.  And this summer, I bought my first ebooks (because I was too impatient to wait for the paper versions to ship, but still).  Recently I’ve expanded my view of which subfields relate to my research, and by expanding my view, I’ve discovered a whole new set of literature that will help push my research forward (and possibly in all-new directions!).  I’m now way behind on my reading, but I’m also looking forward to scholarly reading in a way I haven’t for a long time.

Not making the list, but honorable mentions, include taking time away from Carleton (sometimes you just need to get away), rediscovering the joy of entirely free weekends and mostly free evenings, and my iPhone, which allowed me to go away for a week and not bring my laptop with me.

What helped you survive the summer?