One of my favorite habits I’ve adopted this past year is doing a monthly review at the end of every month. Most paper planners have a dedicated page for this, but I like the one developed by Jo VanEvery in her newsletter (you should subscribe!) which is customized somewhat for academics. The reason I like doing this is simple – I like giving myself credit for ALL the things I do each month. Academia can feel like this nebulous blob that covers your whole life but also looks invisible. It’s easy to get to the end of a month and feel like you’ve accomplished so little while also feeling totally burnt out. The review helps me feel accomplished, helps me evaluate my time/energy, helps me anticipate what’s coming in the next month, and helps me check in with my long term goals.
If all of this is sounding pretty nerdy, hello there! I am a nerdy academic who thinks Chaucer is hilarious and who geeks out over planning. This blog has mostly been about teaching thus far, but I want to expand to include posts that I think might help other early career academics. So much of the available advice (while awesome and valuable) is created by mid to late career academics with cushy tenure track positions and regular research leave. I’d like to report here from the early career NTT trenches as I try to figure out how best to navigate the demands of teaching a heavy, writing-intensive load and my own ambitious research agenda. I can’t promise to have all the answers, but I’ve learned a thing or two that’s helped me, and I want to pass it on.
Doing a monthly review is one of those things that’s changed the game for me. Jo’s formula is simple: write out a list of everything you did that month – personal and professional. Flip through your planners and to-do lists and jot it all down (she says to set a timer, but I want credit for ALL of it so I just write until I run out of things). Then make a list for what’s coming up in the next month to help you anticipate and plan. Then determine what your number one priorities will be in the various categories of your life for the next month (mine are: Self. Relationships, Teaching, Admin, Writing, and Community). You can create whatever categories you want. Then I add something to Jo’s formula that I find very useful – I look at my yearly goals to see if all the things I’m doing (and my priorities) are helping me make any progress on those goals. I used to set yearly goals and forget about them until I got the next year’s planner, but now I check them monthly. Some months it might feel disheartening to see that you haven’t made much progress, but I don’t beat myself up – the exercise usually makes me feel awesome about myself and sometimes helps me see that I need to rethink my yearly goals to reflect my real life.
This is just one way of doing a monthly check-in, so find the way that works for you. Whatever helps you realize that you are awesome, that you are doing more than enough, and that you can make progress – even if it’s tiny – toward your goals. Considering what we’ve all just lived through I wish I could give you a big celebratory parade, but these emojis will have to do 🎉🎉🎉
Do you do some kind of check-in, Ta-Da list, or celebration ritual for making it through another month of academia? I’d love to hear in the comments below.
Stay tuned for (hopefully) more posts this year about teaching, composition, digital literacy, and academia. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @litambitions