Summer is almost here.  I can feel it in the strangely lethargic yet twitchy atmosphere in classes, and in the desperation, mania, and glee of defending PhD students.  I can see it in the undergrads trying on their robes for graduation and taking proud photos for their graduation announcements.  I can see it in the fatigue on the faces of students and professors alike.

I can also sense it within myself- that magic sense of anticipation. Finally, I’ll get to relax. And paradoxically, the opposite thought: Finally, I’ll get to work.

It’s ridiculous, of course, that I feel like I haven’t been working this past semester. I have been working and have much to show for it. But I also have the perverse sense that I haven’t been working- at least not on what matters for keeping my job. And with all of the service and teaching that’s been on my plate, I miss my research. I have all these ideas bottled up inside my head, partially incubating, and I haven’t had any time to let any of them form fully. So I’m greatly anticipating the start of summer, and looking forward to working on all of the things I like most.

But I also know that I have a tendency to set unrealistic goals. I mean, with all the free time I’ll have, OF COURSE I’ll be able to pump out papers, grants, data, etc. Oh, I’m traveling to conferences and surely my talks for those meetings will be perfectly prepared well in advance. And I just know I’ll manage to spend lots of time with friends and family. And most definitely, my toe nails will be perfectly manicured and I’ll be totally relaxed.

Invariably, with all of these grand plans I set myself up for failure so that when summer ends I am left feeling like I accomplished little.

So in these final weeks of the semester, I’m taking a hard look at my goals and figuring out what is realistic to accomplish this summer. Here are my priorities: 1) Set up the final pieces of the last part of my lab and start collecting data (with my grad student). 2) Push forward the permitting process for new sites. 3) Start a paper that will stretch me in new directions. 4) Work on my parts in several large collaborative projects. As part of this process, I’m trying to map out specific goals for each month to help me prioritize and organize my time. Ultimately, I hope that when summer ends, I will feel like I’ve accomplished my goals… and of course it wouldn’t hurt to schedule in some pedicures and massages along the way!

4 thoughts on “Anticipation

    • Thanks for the link to that wonderful article! And congratulations on your defense. Enjoy your summer, and the control you have over your time!

  1. So timely! I’m also in the midst of planning the next few months, week by week, and am trying to set realistic goals on my most important projects. Like you, I have a tendency to be too ambitious and then feel like a failure. I’m curious how closely you budget your time and what tools you use.

    (Btw, I loved “a paper that will push [you] in new directions.” Too often, I feel too hopeless and pressed for time to be so optimistic!)

    • I don’t monitor or budget my time that closely, unless I am tracking it for a specific purpose or am really pressed with a deadline. I generally set daily and weekly goals/tasks (in the context of my larger goals for the semester), using Evernote and my calendar to organize my time. I have a Note for each week, and I break down everything I want to do each day on that note, in the context of my appointments- e.g., work on Figure 1, revise Discussion, prepare lecture for tomorrow, etc.

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