For Everything, There is a Season

A few weeks ago, as I looked out my kitchen window in the early hours of the morning, my gaze fell onto the pear tree in my back yard with a shock—lumps of white had shown up overnight all over the tree’s branches. My first thought when I saw the white standing out against the bark was that it had snowed, but as the sun came up, I realized that what I assumed was winter holding on tight was the first touch of spring. The tree’s delicate flowers had bloomed, and within days, the whole hillside burst into that new yellow-green that comes when the grays of winter finally fade away.

And that new green, and the feelings of change that come with it, got me thinking about the seasons. As we barrel toward the summer season, we head through commencement and into the inevitable, hazy summer lull that follows it for those of us working in higher education. Summer is a great time to recharge, reflect on recent work and, perhaps most importantly, prepare for the busier season that still lies ahead. Here are five ways to make the most of the upcoming season of downtime.

Declutter 

You know that stack of papers that’s been building up at the corner of your desk? The one you’ve been ignoring for months because you haven’t had time to go through it and file them away properly? Summer may provide the opportunity to get those things in order, as well as any other clutter that’s been building up over the school year. After all, a messy workspace has been shown to undermine your efficiency, persistence and mood at work.

The same goes for your digital desktop, too. Plus, organizing files (and emails!) into proper folders while you have the bandwidth to do it well will make it easier to adhere to your organizational structure later on.

Read

Those of us in media relations have to take time every day to consume media. It’s right there in the job title. However, when tasks pile up at work and at home alike, it can start to seem indulgent to spend time reading that lengthy article in The Atlantic that doesn’t directly relate to what you’re working on.

Now that the squeeze of the school year has lightened, take the time you need to burn through your reading list, journalistic or otherwise. It’ll help you learn more about what journalists cover, it’ll help you feel more well-informed, and as my colleague Laura’s blog post pointed out, reading great writing makes you a better writer. 

Catch up 

Everyone has projects they’re passionate about that get pushed to the bottom of the list by more urgent projects. Summer is a great time to dig those out and get to work. “Catching up” could mean updating (or creating) detailed media lists for different beats, fixing up a neglected website or even just taking the time to network with colleagues and journalists. 

Set Goals

Institutions will inevitably have their own unique strategic goals and priorities for the coming year, but what do you want for yourself, professionally and personally? Do you want to be better about responding to email? Be a better writer? Be happier in your job? Get more and better media placements? (Ok, who doesn’t want those last two?) 

Now is the perfect time to work out a plan for achieving whatever goals you’ve identified that will make you more successful and content at work. Making a plan and starting it when you’re not stressed out will hopefully make it easier to stick to later on. Help you help yourself.

Relax

For some amount of time this summer, take a break, shut down the laptop, and put up your out of office reply. Go outside, enjoy the sun. Repeat as often as necessary until the cool breezes of fall replace the summer lull of higher education. You’ve earned it.