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Planning work over the summer (for faculty and undergrad/graduate students)

Two of my quasi-doctoral students (Cesar Alvarez from University of California Los Angeles and Mariana Miguelez from The Ohio State University), have asked me a few times whether I could write a blog post about how to plan a summer. As doctoral students in the United States, their summer is approximately 4 months (from May through August). Fellow faculty members have asked me for the same. When I used to work in Canada, I would have 4 months, but now at CIDE I have only from June through mid-August. These summer months still assume I’m on campus and thus I should be available for meetings, etc. Because of this shortened summer, I rarely plan anything extended beyond knowing when I should take a holiday (which I usually do at the same time as when CIDE closes over the summer for 3 weeks). At any rate, when I need to plan summer activities, I follow the model I present below.

Drafts monthly plans

The process I follow is approximately the following (as drawn from my thread):

These tweets describe my strategy in more detail.

Something asked me how do I deal with STCUS (Shit That Comes Up Somehow) and here is how: I add those tasks that I either had to do without having planned them, or somebody dropped those commitments on my lap (e.g. administrative stuff that needs to be dealt with for my institution). I use a green coloured pen to mark them as “this came up, had to do it”.

For doctoral students (and Masters and undergraduate too), I strongly recommend that they incorporate a review of their progress in their summer planning. Summers are possibly the only periods (unless they have to teach or work if they do not have funding, in order to make ends meet) when a doctoral student could possibly reflect without having additional pressures. This reflection could help them remap their progress.

You could potentially use whatever is left of the month of April to write a first draft of a DTP and update it every month, or update a file with notes about your progress that could then be reworked into a DTP. If you are a faculty member writing a book, perhaps doing a DTP would help as well!

The following few tweets show how I do the monthly and weekly planning, with actual visual examples.

To recap, my suggestion for planning a summer:

1) Set up a goal for the end of the summer (whichever months that would be – for this blog post’s sake consider May 1st the beginning of summer and August 31st the end).
2) Break down each goal/objective/milestone into achievable tasks and milestones to be accomplished each month/week.
3) Backcast those goals from the end of August backwards through to the beginning of May using a Gantt Chart and printed monthly and weekly calendars.
4) Plan your day using #2ThingsADay, Granular Planning and the Rule of Threes or whichever method you prefer, based on weekly goals to achieve.
5) Drop those commitments in either a Google Calendar or an Everything Notebook or whichever method you best prefer.

Obviously this process can be adapted to plan a semester (either Fall or Spring) as well. Hope this blog post helps people out there!

Posted in academia, planning, writing.

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