3 Tips for Executing Summer Goals
The onerous thing about research (and much of our work) is that it never stops.. The silver lining in that, is you can always improve how to realistically get work done.
In that light, here I outlined a short post about productivity. I wanted to share how I am planning, managing time and holding myself accountable this summer as I strive towards the goals listed in my The Annual Review post.
First things first, I am a procrastinator but I love to plan. I ruminate on a task for days when it will only take me 30 minutes in real life. I brainstorm ideas in my head for weeks, then give myself 3 days to write a thesis, book chapter and poetry book lol. I’m exaggerating; but, this isn’t too far fetched.
The first tip is to utilize Google Sheets.
Here is an example (and screenshot) of how I broke my semester tasks down into weekly, then daily goals.
For me this was a way to break down projects or assignments with longstanding due dates into realistic, manageable tasks on a daily basis. The 'working date' column served as my daily to-do list and the 'notes' column was handy for specific links, guidelines or instructions or place to simply leave a few comments about the task.
In my opinion, its easy to sit with my syllabus, input due dates and “reverse engineer” how the task will get done. For me, it was a step closer to also outlining ALL the baby tasks that make up writing a literature review. Think about all the smaller tasks:
A day in online libraries and databases.
A day reading through abstracts.
A couple days actually reading articles.
The time it takes to annotate or write notes on a paper.
Organizing the thoughts.
In my experience in academia I found it extremely hard to be realistic about how long it takes (minutes, hours) to complete a task. How long does it actually take you to read a journal article? How long does it actually take you to run that SEM model? How long does it actually take you to code that video? The Google Spreadsheet was helpful in helping me prioritize those small tasks.
The second tip is to try a timer system like Toggl.
Toggl has been invaluable to my time management and productivity. Toggl is an online timer platform that allows you to create folders for your different projects. For my obligations as a research assistant, I can pinpoint how long it takes to enter data, to pull video excerpts or to code a video. For my tasks as an instructor, I can track, on average, how long it takes to edit teaching slides or grade writing reflections, in addition to keeping time for my own coursework. I can track how long I spend working on In Her Lane or The Write Playlist and use these times as a parameter for scheduling my days.
All in all, it helps me to be realistic about time on a very micro and macro level.
My final tip is to join or create accountability partnerships or groups.
What I am learning is that a big key to being realistic about executing any goal is to understand the power of connection and accountability supports.
I don’t know if it’s the only child syndrome, the high-achiever syndrome or simply stubbornness, but I struggle with telling people what I have going on and asking for help. On one hand, I don’t like to share my plans or goals because I do not want people inquiring about the progress (especially since I tend to start but not finish things). On the other hand, not sharing feels like a safe way to only half commit to my goals and only let myself down if things don't pan out as anticipated. Yikes!
In 2020, accountability partners have been my saving grace when it comes to being present and working towards consistent, quality results in both work and non-work related matters.
In my annual review post, I mentioned quite a few goals that span my academic and personal life. And honestly, I am thanking God for all types of accountability partners and groups to keep me focused and continuing to execute.
For instance, with certain Sista-scholar friends, I have set working times for collaborative projects which means we are holding each other accountable for progress. With some sista-scholar friends, accountability looks like freedom to brainstorm and theorize about creative and academic passion. On a more personal level, I have joined two groups this summer to realistically support my goals. One is Black Girls Brand Club, a group for Black girls with budding brands. I need that! The other, a summer book club with a group of Black women which supports my goal to read more this summer.
For me, accountability groups are encouraging me to open up about my goals, ask for help, share my knowledge and execute in a supportive environment.
This summer, being realistic is the name of the game. I am learning that my motivation wanes a lot, but finding ways to self-regulate is extremely important and necessary in this marathon of graduate school and life.
If you haven’t already, check out my post The Annual Review and do a little self-assessment before these planning and executing stages.
Until next time,