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Alyssa is a doctoral student in neuroscience at the University of Rhode Island. Follow them @yes_thattoo or check out their personal blog.


“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham


While astronomical summer isn't over yet, our semesters are just now starting, or about to start. (I started classes this past Wednesday.) Summer "break" might be a myth, but our summer routines aren't quite the same as our semester routines. Most of us don’t have classes in summer, but teach or take classes in the fall. That means we have more open time, but it also means the time isn’t structured -- both productivity and procrastination get easier. It may also be conference season: the lack of summer classes means you don’t need to find someone to cover your class while you’re away. Campuses tend to empty out in the summer, which means fewer distractions but also fewer social opportunities if you were involved on campus during the semester. Now that the semester is starting up again, we have to un-do all those changes. So, how do we make the transition?


Look back on the summer.

My summer to-do list isn't done (and was much too long), and yours probably isn't finished either (and may also have been too long). If you're like me, you've spent most of the summer focused on the parts of your to-do list that aren't done yet, and therefore concerned about how much you are (not) accomplishing. Now is a good time to take a look at what you did. This summer,


I co-wrote a chapter about teaching while needing Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).

I got through the first round of revisions for that chapter.

I read and drafted a review of Afterward for Disability in Kidlit.

I found a place for the formal, not-liveblogged version of my review of Uniquely Human.

I did several rounds of revisions for my unusually academic "personal" narrative for Body Battlegrounds, which I am finally done with.

I did some of my revisions for a piece about fanfiction and disability representation.

I taught an Introduction to Counting and Probability course.

I substitute taught for a bunch of other math classes.

I did most of the reading for a review on sleep monitoring methods, and figured out how I want to organize that review.


I still have a lot to do - note that I only did some of the revisions for my disability and fanfiction piece, and that I haven't written the review on sleep monitoring technologies yet. I'm just about ready to sit down and start writing, which is on my to-do list, but it's nice to see that I really did quite a bit!


Look forward to the fall.

We've all got things scheduled for the fall semester. I'm taking my lightest course load ever, which should mean I can make some real progress on research. With a sense of your fall responsibilities, you can figure out what a reasonable schedule will look like.

  • I need to schedule and study for my qualifying exams.
  • I am taking three evening classes and have to be prepared for journal club each week.
  • I need to actually write the review about sleep monitoring methods.
  • I really should finish revisions for the fanfiction and disability piece.

There are fewer items on this fall list, but that's partially because the items that are there are recurring events. I'll have classes three days per week. I have the best concentration for reading in the mornings, but write best in the early afternoon. I'll have a meal plan, which means I need to get lunch between 11:30 am and 1:00 pm every day, as well as dinner between 5:30 pm and 7:00 pm. This roughly divides my day into morning, afternoon, and evening slots. Now it's time to remember that I'm disabled. Realistically, I can alternate having responsibilities in one or two of these slots per day, as long as one of my weekend days stays totally empty. Urgent and unexpected things will come up, so I should probably schedule one slot less than I can really work. (If nothing goes wrong for a week, I can add the "extra" shift back in on Friday.)


Get going!

The semester is here. Summer is over. That means the routine is changing. It’s easy to shove everything from the summer to-do list onto the fall to-do list and then push yourself to catch up, but you’ll pay later. Set a reasonable pace for yourself, because running out of gas around midterms is no fun. You could even make your schedule a touch lighter than you need to, so you have space for the unexpected. Then keep to it!


What did you get done this summer? What's on the list for the fall? How are you arranging your time in the fall to make sure as much of that list gets done as possible?

[Comic by Jorge Cham used in accordance with permissions found on the comic’s about page]