Well, if any of you academics out there are like me, the summer means two things for you: 1) A large amount of time to really catch up on the things you love most and are probably behind on (reading, writing, researching, idea creation), and 2) feeling like you’re repeatedly banding your head up against the wall with no real “work flow.” While you are attempting to be the most productive person ever, the sunny poolside beckons your name and drinks (ice cold beers…I mean, lemonades) call your name. So how is a person supposed to get into work flow anyway?
All summer I’ve been trying to figure this out. In fact, the past two summers I have been trying to figure this out, often with no avail. I try to explain to my non-academic friends that even though I theoretically have more time to get things done, the main things left for me to accomplish are just simply DIFFICULT. It’s a constant state of brain storming new ideas and projects, writing (ughh…journal publication process – shoot me, please), and data analysis and reading (which aren’t bad at all and often distract me from the first two). But regardless of what you do, most of us strive to acheive that amazing state of “work flow.” And therein lies the problem – work flow isn’t achieved by striving. It’s acheiving by being. Being what?
Here are some things I’m learning about acheiving work flow. *Disclaimer* – this is purely anecdotal, and I have no actual data to support this except from my own life. Ok – the researcher in me had to qualify that! This is just meant for me to share with you what I’m learning this summer, but if these things are helpful, by all means, implement some of them!
1. I have to ENJOY the process, not the outcome.
I am terrible at always looking at the outcomes of things. I view the process as something that is a necessary evil to get to the outcomes. In my case, more journal pulications, studies run, data analyzed, articles and books read, etc. This has not really done me much good in the past, and I’m starting to realize why. It’s draining! For the first time ever this summer, I am actually viewing my summer workload as an opportunity to brain storm ideas I’m excited about, write up things I think people need to know about, and just dream. It may sound hokey, but it’s actually working. This summer, I have already been about 500% more productive than I was last summer in my writing alone (meaning I have written about 5 MORE publications than last year). And it’s only a little over half way through the summer. Enjoying the process, surprisingly enough, makes you engage in the process MORE. And guess what that means – more outcomes. Why hadn’t I alread realized this.
2. Get around colleagues who are excited about what they do.
I have been very fortunate to be around colleagues who get really pumped up about the work they do, and it’s contagious. My lab partner and I have had a few really exciting brainstorming sessions in which we realized the cool things we could actually research and do. My advisor at the Academy for Teaching and Learning has a contagious enthusiasm for higher eduction, technology, and learning, and he sets me on fire. And my advisor, well, he’s always pumped about his research. These people are crucial players in my life to getting the fire burning beneath me and getting really excited about being engaged in the work I do.
3. Take breaks!
Simple enough. If you’re really drained, take the day off. If you haven’t slowed down in a while – go grab a coffee. I’m terrible at not listening to myself when I need a break. When I do listen to myself, I am constantly amazed at the higher levels of production that ensue afterwards.
Well, that’s where I am at. In short, I feel insanely fortunate and blessed to do what I do. The moments I realize that are the moments I produce the most work. So here’s to good work flow this summer!