New month, new season, new plans

Sticky notes with tasks attached to papers with category headings
Low-tech planning never gets old.

I plan my year mostly according to the Carleton calendar. Rather than dividing the year into quarters, I think of my year in quintiles (similar to Sarah Hart-Unger’s system): Winter Term (January through mid-March), Spring Term (end of March through mid-June), Summer (mid-June through August), Fall Term (September through Thanksgiving), Winter Break (December). Starts and ends of terms form natural start and end points. Plus, each term — and each break — has different rhythms and priorities.

Because of the course releases I get for my administrative and service loads, I had a minimal teaching load this term, just a Comps group and a 1-credit seminar. Neither of which requires grading or exam-giving or final project-wrangling. And given that I’ve already started on a couple of my summer projects, I used Wednesday — the last day of Spring Term classes — to start planning out my summer goals and intentions.

I kept the spirit of the process I describe in this post. I’ve been thinking in the background of what I want my summer to look like, and in particular how to balance work with the rest I so desperately need after 2+ years of pandemic academia. So I was able to capture, summarize, and triage all in one step. I put projects on sticky notes that I stuck on big sheets of paper labeled with categories (“STEM Board”, “Research”, etc.) with columns for each month. (See the picture at the start of this post for a visual.) Doing so allowed me to see if one month was getting too “heavy” with projects and to move things with more flexible deadlines around. I then looked at which sticky notes ended up in the “June” columns and set my June goals accordingly.

I haven’t done the calendar wrangling portion yet, nor have I slotted tasks into specific weeks. But I’ve been keeping pretty good task lists for each project, so I just need to sit down and work backwards from my target due dates to figure out which tasks go where. I’m also going to experiment with blocking off specific times of day to work on specific tasks / projects. I’m hoping this helps me context switch / prepares my brain to concentrate on one task at a time instead of worrying about all of the tasks all of the time. But I’m also using this strategy to put strong boundaries around my work time, to preserve time to rest, rejuvenate, have fun, and work on non-work projects. And to take advantage of the flexibility my job affords — something I’m not always great about doing.

How are your summer plans shaping up?

One thought on “New month, new season, new plans

  1. Pingback: Working in “snack size” portions | This is what a computer scientist looks like

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