As the adage goes, success is 90 percent preparation and 10 percent perspiration.
The summer is a great time to finish projects that you started during the academic year and think of new initiatives that will help you prepare for the fall.
Doing a series of small projects (or tackling a larger project by breaking it up into smaller pieces) during the summer could help make the fall less stressful.
Some projects that I’ve found useful to do over the summer include organizing, program preparation, and idea generation. Read on for more ideas.
I feel energized and more creative when I have an organized workspace.
But what’s most important is that you organize your space in a way that makes you feel comfortable.
Personally, taming the mountain of paperwork that I generate during the academic year is high on my priority list. I set aside a specific date to go through every piece of loose paper, every sticky note, and every note on my legal pad.
If you take on a project like this, you could do one of several things to each piece of paper:
- File it. If you need to hang onto the piece of paper for future reference, then simply place it in a designated filing cabinet, binder, or folder.
- Digitize it. Some paperwork could be scanned and saved as a digital file or typed up. You could type up your notes from the conferences that you attended or transform a reminder on a sticky note into a digital reminder on your email calendar.
- Recycle it. If you no longer need the hardcopy because it has been digitized or it is no longer relevant, into the recycle bin it can go.
- Shred it. Documents that have sensitive information but you no longer need a hardcopy of should be shredded. This might include W-9s, FERPA-protected information, and personal contact information.
Once every piece of paper is in its place, you could focus on your digital files. Maybe you want to rename some files so that they’ll be easier to find, especially if you have multiple drafts or versions of it. Or perhaps your files are spread across your desktop and need to be collected into folders. This includes organizing and labeling archived photos.
Feel free to use the summer, typically a time when there’ll be fewer people stopping by your office, to redecorate your workspace. Add some new pictures of family and friends, bring in a new plant, or do whatever else brings a sense of welcoming renewal to your space.
Do you have hundreds of old emails sitting in your inbox? Do you wish that you had a process for managing the flood of emails that will start up again in the fall? Inbox Zero is a concept that could help with both of these problems.
Inbox Zero is the process of labeling, triaging, and organizing your email inbox in a way that allows you to reach and maintain zero unread emails awaiting replies in your inbox.
Summer is a good time to both tame the pile of emails already in your inbox and practice the Inbox Zero email management strategy.
Let’s start with cleaning up what’s already in your inbox. I find that moving emails into folders once I’m done with them helps keep my inbox clear. Depending on your needs, you may have folders for receipts, contracts, individual projects, reference materials, newsletters, and more. You can find some tips for creating and labeling email folders here.
Once you’ve set up your folders, start moving emails into them. If you can’t think of a reason why you may want to reread an email at a later date, then delete it. If you can commit to filing or deleting a small batch of emails every day, even if it’s just a few, your inbox will be significantly clearer by summer’s end.
To maintain a clear inbox, use the Inbox Zero method:
- Delete. If it isn’t relevant to you, delete it. Also take the time to unsubscribe from newsletters and other communications that you don’t find valuable.
- Delegate. Forward any emails that could be dealt with by someone else — if that person is better equipped to answer the original sender’s question or give a status update.
- Respond. Respond to the email if you can type the response in two minutes or less.
- Defer. If responding to the email will take longer than two minutes or requires additional research or input from a third party, place it in an “action required” folder or on a to-do list.
- Do. Act on an email if the task can be completed within two minutes, such as RSVPing to an event or filling out a survey. If the task will take longer than two minutes, then defer the task instead.
Some items that you could start working on include articulating learning outcomes, picking experiential activities that you want to use, and brainstorming guest presenters that you’d like to invite to campus.
One bit of preparation that can help keep your curriculum organized is gathering all of the digital materials that you need for each session into one folder on your computer. It’s useful to have all of the presentation slide decks, handouts, pre- and post-workshop surveys, and facilitator guides together in one place, especially if you are reusing materials from previous trainings.
Relatedly, you could update your department’s student employee handbook. Maybe you want to draft a remote work policy so that student employees are permitted (or even encouraged) to complete some work outside of the office. Check with your HR or student employment department about applicable institutional policies or work-study laws if you want to offer your students remote work opportunities.
Another way to improve a handbook is to add visuals and infographics using tools like Canva or Piktochart.10 Lame Documents that Would Be Better as Infographics has some additional inspiration.
I bet that you did some amazing things during the past academic year. Maybe you took on new work responsibilities, volunteered with a community organization, won an award, or presented at a conference.
All of these accomplishments can — and should — go on your LinkedIn profile. Reviewing your LinkedIn profile during the summer means that you don’t have to worry about updating it right before you attend a conference or other networking opportunity.
This cheat sheet will help you review your LinkedIn from top to bottom. If you need some help writing the summary portion of your profile, I recommend these resources:
- How to Write the Perfect LinkedIn Summary
- 3 Stunningly Good LinkedIn Profile Summaries
- 5 Template That’ll Make Writing the Perfect LinkedIn Summary a Total Breeze
- Headline & Summary Worksheet
During the summer, you could brainstorm topics and write out parts of your proposal. Even if you don’t know the exact contents of the proposal form, you can anticipate being asked for a title, a session abstract, and why conference attendees will find your session compelling.
Think of your session idea as a job candidate, the conference as a potential employer, and the session proposal as a cover letter. Your proposal should articulate what your session adds to the conference experience.
If the professional association that is sponsoring the conference has a research agenda posted on their website, you could start searching for topic ideas there.
Social Media Brainstorm
If you’re involved in maintaining your office’s social media presence, the summer can be a great time to prepare your editorial calendar.
You could start by outlining what topics you want to post about. That could mean identifying holidays and observances to use as themes for individual posts. You can also research awareness and appreciation months that might resonate with students, especially if there might be related programming on campus.
If you want to invest additional energy into this project, feel free to start gathering images, GIFS, fun facts, quotes, and other content that might be incorporated into your social media posts.
Regardless of the number and scope of projects that you take on during the summer, be sure to pick ones that feel useful to you, rather than just busywork. If you only accomplish one project because you were busy with other responsibilities or needed the summer to recharge your mental energy, that’s okay. Preparing for the fall semester will be a moot point if you are burnt out at the end of the summer.