For most of us, the summer is a time to relax, refocus, and recharge (I said “for most of us”, we love you Orientation!). We take stock of what did or did not go well this past year, write our annual reports, and set goals that will carry us through the next 12 next months. We all know, the day our students leave at the conclusion of the Spring semester, our mental clocks start a countdown to their return the following Fall. Whether we want to admit it or not, that countdown clock is rapidly approaching 00:00:00 and our students will be back in our offices with questions and concerns before we know it. So what are some things we can do to make sure we are mentally prepared for the beginning of a new year? Here are some things I do annually before a new academic year gets underway:
1) Take a STAY-cation: It sounds obvious, but make sure you take time for yourself during the summer! I’m really a hermit at heart, so for me, nothing is better than just relaxing for a week with my books and escaping reality without the hassle of actually going anywhere! If you’re more of a traveler, than get away and visit somewhere you’ve always wanted to go! If you can’t spend the vacation time, just head down to the shore for a weekend and relax on the beach. Once Convocation is over and the routine of the year has begun there is very little time to get away, so make sure to take advantage of it while it’s here!
2) Read something new that you can incorporate into your practice: I love reading about new trends and practices, or finding interesting articles/theories from different fields and incorporating it into my work. During the year, though, there is very little time just to sit back and truly digest new material. I make it a point to find something new (or just new to me) that I can use to address something that happened during the school year. One issue I had this year was my accountability and my student employees taking ownership for their work. To address this, This summer I am reading The Oz Principle (Conners, Hickman, and Smith, 2004) and finding ways to incorporate it into student staff training. It has also helped me to reflect on my own work as I have just celebrated my one year anniversary in my position. Finding new material helps you to step back from your day-to-day routines, reflect on your practice, and can remind you why you became passionate about this field in the first place.
3)Clean my office: Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a “piler” not a “filer,” As the year goes on things just pile up around my office. I know where everything is, but to those around me it’s just a mess! I make sure that before the academic year begins my is completely cleared out and that everything has a place. It may not stay that way long, but it gives a feeling that “all is new” and that all that old stuff that was around isn’t as important because there’s a whole new year of challenges to face and successes to achieve!
Those are just three things that help me to be prepared for a new year. Here are some other recommendations from my colleagues on The Jersey Alliance Executive Council:
1) Get a new planner and fill it in with all the important dates for the upcoming year
2) Goal Setting
3) Buy yourself a new outfit, shoes, and/or bag: something that helps remind you that it’s a new year!
4) Restock office supplies: If you’re like me, than you can’t live without that particular office supply. For me it’s Sharpee® pens (they’re the best!)
5) Review assessments from the previous year: If you have the ability to institute short one page assessments from programs/activities you plan throughout the year, don’t let them go to waste. Use the information you obtain to inform your practice for the upcoming year. If this is not currently a part of your practice, use this summer to develop these instruments so that you have that information ready for you next summer
NOTE: Thanks to Maya Bley, Courtney O’Connell, Thea Schoenberg, Kelly Hennessy, and Michelle Brisson for their responses
Seth D. Zolin