Aaaahhh...summer. That time when academics can read for leisure, connect with family, focus on self-care, engage in deep thoughts, travel to exotic locals.
Most academics find their summers filled with lots and lots of work. Think summer teaching, writing deadlines, conference presentations, and let's not forget the tons of meetings that absolutely must happen even when we are off contract.
Some of these things are unavoidable, like summer teaching if you need the money. But you can still boundary summer work in ways that allow you to exhale and relax. Here are three hacks that allow you to do just that.
1. Schedule a later start and/or earlier end time.
Making time for summer fun and relaxation requires limiting work hours. For example, if you work from 8 to 5 during a regular semester, you can choose to start at 9 and end at 3 this summer. Make those hours count by working from a prioritized to-do list, keeping off all social media during work hours, and taking a 30-minute no-work lunch break (breaks increase efficiency). Caveat: this schedule is only possible for faculty who have no or reduced paid summer responsibilities.
2. Create automatic out-of-office email and voicemail messages that communicate your reduced availability.
When I'm not teaching or administrating, my message goes something like this: Thank you for contacting me. I am on summer leave and unable to check [email/voicemail] regularly due to my scholarship and travel commitments. I will return to regular office hours on [fall contract start date]. If you need immediate assistance, please contact [insert name of admin person or chair or someone else that's not you].
3a. Schedule an actual vacation.
Scheduling a vacation is different from unexpectedly not working several days in a row because you're too exhausted to drag yourself out of bed. That kind of time off comes with guilt and self-blame. Who needs that? Even if it is a staycation, PLAN to take at least five consecutive days off where you do NOTHING work related. The only thing you should be working on during this break is unwinding. If you want to make it extra worthwhile, you can stop your cell phone from receiving work email. Don't worry, the angst of not having to check your work email repeatedly will be replaced by the wonderful feelings of happiness and calm.
3b. Vacation not possible? Schedule daycations instead.
Can't make a summer vacation happen due to caregiving or financial responsibilities? No problem. Take seven or more half-days off where you do something fun (and inexpensive) just for you. These daycations are perfect for when the kids are at camp/childcare. For example, my friends and I recently went bowling on a Tuesday afternoon. It was cheap AND fun. Other daycation ideas include visits to the local beach/pool, museum, zoo, library, coffee shop, or botanical gardens, bicycling, nature walks/hikes, golf, matinees, picnics, or roller skating. The possibilities are endless. Make a list of what you want to do, schedule them on your calendar, and get to having fun. Oh, and errand-running is NOT allowed!
In peace and solidarity