Working in “snack size” portions

Serving of tortilla chips with salsas.
Image credit: PxHere

The myth every year, as I plan out my summer, is that I’ll be able to take advantage of summer’s unstructured time to work more deeply, in longer time blocks, than I normally can during the academic year. And sometimes that’s true.

The reality, particularly this summer, is that I’m finding more success in working on smaller, “snack size” portions of projects for shorter time blocks. Allowing me to chip (ha! pun not intended) away gradually at the various projects on my plate, making gradual forward progress (mostly) on each.

I knew I was burned out going into this summer. But I hadn’t realized how much being burned out impacted my ability to think, concentrate, and execute until I actually had time to think, concentrate, and execute. Burnout means that my brain really can only think in snack-size chunks right now. I could lament the fact that this is happening, or I could embrace it and run with it. I chose the latter.

Sometimes working in snack-size chunks means that I am constantly thinking about other tasks while working on different tasks. So far, this hasn’t been the case. Maybe it’s because I honestly don’t have enough mental energy to multitask in that way. Maybe because when I planned firm boundaries around my work time this summer, I primed myself to focus on single tasks at a time? Whatever the reason, I’m not going to dwell on it — it’s working for now, and that’s all that matters.

Working in snack-size chunks has been a lifesaver this week for a very different and unexpected reason:

Positive at-home COVID test
Our family’s COVID-free streak comes to a crashing end.

I am fortunate that (a) my case is mild, likely because (b) I’m vaxxed and boosted, and (c) I was able to get Paxlovid, which has helped with the symptoms. (I’m beyond annoyed that (a) I am the most cautious member of my immediate family and yet I was the one to bring this home, (b) I HAD A SECOND BOOSTER SCHEDULED THE DAY I TESTED POSITIVE because of course that’s how the universe works.) Working in snack-size chunks on the few things that absolutely have to get done this week has helped me manage my energy levels while sick. That was even true during the first couple of days when the fatigue was at its worst: oftentimes, the snack size was a single chip. Now that I have more energy, the snack size work chunks remind me not to push myself too hard as I do the important work of healing my body.

Do you work in snack size chunks, or does your work time look more like a long, leisurely meal? What food metaphor would you use to describe how you’re working this summer?


One thought on “Working in “snack size” portions

  1. I feel this. I too have been working in “snack size” portions, partly because I have too many projects that involve collaboration or intermittent meetings to go really deep, and partly because I’m taking on more child-care responsibilities this summer than summers before.

    Thanks for sharing, and I hope you get better soon!


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