S pring semester is almost complete. Perhaps you’ve already had your last faculty meeting, committee meeting, and attended your final conference for the academic year. Soon you’ll have posted your final grades. Once graduation comes and goes and you’ve heard the last plea for a grade change, you can let go.
As you close the books on spring 2018 savor this reflective moment in the academic cyclical calendar when you experience some blend of exhilaration, relief, regret, anticipation, and exhaustion.
Promise of Summer:
Just around the corner summer awaits. Summer, the season most misunderstood by those outside the academy who imagine you’re on vacation now for three months.
- Maybe you’re teaching and the difference is negligible.
- Perhaps this is your most productive time of year when you tackle research and writing projects or at least promise yourself you’ll make it the most productive time.
- Likely you anticipate a vacation and/or some downtime to recover from the intensity of the last few months.
Magic of Focused Thinking
As you approach this short-lived transition from academic year to summer ends, try this reflection exercise. Designed to spark your thinking and spur your summer planning, this exercise can set your course for both summer enjoyment and productivity.
Choose a day for this reflection exercise. Don’t worry the exercise won’t take all day, but it works best if you space it out across an entire day. Choose a day that falls immediately after your responsibilities for the Spring term end. Follow these three steps that day.
For one-hour in the morning of your chosen day reflect on the semester that has just ended. Use these questions to guide your reflection. Yes, actually write the answers. [If you doubt the power of written reflection explore this learning strategy for the evidence in Brown, et al, Make it Stick: the Science of Successful Learning.]
- What successes am I celebrating from the spring semester?
- What enabled my successes?
- What, if any, regrets or frustrations from unfinished tasks am I feeling?
- What contributed to my regrets or end-of-semester frustrations?
- Going forward, what will I do differently because of these insights?
For one-hour in the early afternoon of your chosen day imagine a day approximately 10-11 weeks away. Imagine yourself in that near future 10-11 weeks from now. From the perspective of that future day, reflect on the 10-11 weeks that have pasted (but actually lay ahead), and answer these questions.
- What successes am I celebrating from this SUMMER?
- How have others benefitted from my successes this SUMMER?
- What did I do differently that made these SUMMER successes possible?
- What obstacles did I anticipate 10-11 weeks ago and make plans for to insure my SUMMER successes?
For one-hour in the late afternoon or early evening of your chosen day review your written reflections from STEPS 1 & 2, which have primed you to answer these questions.
- What desired reality, in your personal and professional life, do you want to be celebrating when the summer gives way to fall? [Yes, desired reality is a goal, but in case you resist goal setting hold on the desired reality.]
- Does the desired reality energize you? (Works best if it does.)
- Will this desired reality enhance the lives of others? (Works best if it does.)
- Is this desired reality connected with your core values and longer-term aspirations for yourself and/or your career? (Works best if it does, even if the long-term is only 6 months away.
Value of a Destination & an Anchor
Congratulations! You now have set a meaningful intention for the summer. Creating this intention provides a clear destination. Let this destination guide and motivate you. Bonus: This written intention also provides an anchor to reconnect you to your desired reality when you get off course, discouraged, confused, and tempted to give up. And you will!
- Write down that desired reality and the day in August you intend to be celebrating it. Even better if you decide now how you will celebrate then.
- Post the desired reality and celebration date in a prominent place or places where you will regularly be reminded and inspired by it.
- Devote time each week to bringing about your desired reality.
- Recognize that course corrections will be needed along the way. So, track and review your weekly progress so you can make those needed course corrections.