Fall term theme: Maintenance

It’s now been just over a week since Fall Term classes started, and just over 2 weeks since my kids started school. We haven’t quite nailed down our routines yet, partly because we have yet to have a “normal” week: out of town guests the kids’ first week of school, a half week for me last week where my classes met at different-than-scheduled times, one kid starting at a new school, and both kids home for 2 days this week while we waited for the results of a COVID test (negative, thankfully).

I finally sat down this week to set my Fall Term goals, a task I usually eagerly complete in early September before the chaos starts. I’d found it hard to identify an hour-ish block of time to evaluate my summer goals, figure out where various projects stood, review the landscape, and set priorities for the next few months. Today’s too full, I said. I just want to finish up this one task from the summer and then I’ll make my fall plan, I said. I should do this other, more pressing thing instead with the hour I have in my schedule this afternoon, I said.

Once I started my “brain dump”, the first part of the process, I realized that my foot-dragging had very little to do with lack of time to plan and everything to do with the theme that emerged. Rather than exuding energy and excitement and new beginnings, my lists reflected things like “staying on top of things” and “put the rest of these pieces in place” and “finish this handoff”. Not exactly ground-breaking, transformative tasks.

I realized that I’m firmly in a Maintenance Phase, in pretty much every area of my life. I’m not training for any fall races, for the first time in a long time, concentrating instead on building strength as a way to recover from consecutive ankle injuries. In my leadership position, I’m working to rebuild relationships and connections that we kind of lost when we went online. I’m teaching a brand new course this fall and don’t have a lot of energy for other projects, because new courses take a lot of energy. And as I look to rotate off of a couple of leadership / director positions, I want to make sure my successors have clear and concise information and records of what I’ve done, to ease their transitions.

So MAINTENANCE is my theme for the fall. I’ll concentrate on keeping things moving forward slowly and steadily. I’ll fix the things in need of repair from 18+ months of pandemic chaos. I’ll prioritize what I’ve already started instead of starting up new things. And, most importantly, I’ll make sure I don’t run down my energy reserves and stick to my limits, so that once I am ready to take up new initiatives, I’ll have the space to do so.

What is your theme for this fall?

What I’m reading: Finishing up Race After Technology, by Ruha Benjamin. (I got within about 10 pages of the end before it was automatically returned to the library, so I’m back on the hold list so that I can eventually finish the book!)

What I’m listening to: The latest Best of Both Worlds podcast episode with Dorie Clark, on “Playing the Career Long Game”. I guess you could consider my maintenance phase this fall, where I focus on putting things in place, as one way to play the career long game!