Surviving Summer: Try Something

As we’ve discussed earlier in our series on surviving summer, humanities PhDs often trade money for time. That is, summers for PhD students are often unpaid but full of “free” time.

Up to this point, we’ve covered a few ways to save money and reduce your cost of living over the summer (see here, here, and here). In this post, we want to switch gears a bit and focus on ways to maximize your time.

Summer is a great time to try out new routines and find new ways to be productive.

The important thing to remember is that, when the term starts, it will absolutely blow up even the best summer routine. That’s not the important thing. The important thing is to experiment with new routines to find what makes you feel your best and most productive. That way, when your semester starts to feel like it’s evening out, you can begin to incorporate some of the elements of your summer routine that you liked.

In particular, I like to try out new planners over the summer.

Two of my favorites are the Panda Planner and the Passion Planner.

(NOTE: THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST BUT IT COULD BE. PLEASE HIT ME UP PANDA PLANNER AND PASSION PLANNER.)

I like different things about each of them.

For day-to-day planning, the Panda Planner works best for my brain. I like that every day gets a full two-page spread with different sections including tasks, schedule, priorities, gratitude, and even exercise.

In the final semester of my dissertation, when I was teaching or TAing three classes and churning out chapter revisions a couple of times a month my Panda Planner kept me sane.

I would sit down with my Panda every evening and write out my tasks and schedule for the upcoming day with all of the things I knew had to get done. The next morning, when I got to the office, I would sit down with my coffee and decide on my five biggest priorities for the day as well as my focus for the day (e.g. productivity, self-care, patience, health, grading, and so on).

What I *love* about this system is that it scaffolds the day’s priorities in a way that helps me be gracious to myself. For instance, maybe I don’t get all of the things on my task list done on a day but I do accomplish my Big 5 Priorities. That’s still a win–I prioritized those things for a reason and got them done. Hooray!

By the same token, maybe there’s a day that I don’t get my tasks or my Big 5 accomplished but I stay true to my focus by making extra time for self-care or to meet with students outside of class. That still feels like a win because it reminds me that, while productivity ebbs and flows, I was true to my values that day.

If you want some sample pages to try a Panda Planner and see if it’s right for you then you can submit your email here.

The Passion Planner has a different daily/weekly schedule. One week is spread out over two pages with a schedule for each day as well as a separate section for top priorities, both personal and professional, and a dedicated space for creativity.

Personally, I like having a dedicated daily priorities section rather than a weekly one. My adhd brain often can’t see what the priorities will be at the end of the week. When I try to, I get lost in the weeds or overwhelmed, so the daily priorities works better for me.

For those of you with decent executive function, however, the Passion Planner is a wonderful option.

What I really, really love about the Passion Planner is the passion planning system it walks you through. The Passion Planning system helps you decide on what you want your long-term goals to be and make a plan to achieve them.

It’s particularly good, in my opinion, for multi-passionate entrepreneurs. If you haven’t heard that term “multi-passionate entrepreneurs” is a fancy term for people who are passionate about multiple simultaneous projects. This category fits most humanities graduate students I know who are passionate about at least one research project, a creative pursuit, teaching, and activism. Oh yeah, and on top of that most of us are trying to stay reasonably healthy.

The Passion Planner is dedicated to making space for all of those aspects of your life and has a great system for walking you through how to do it.

If you wanna try out a Passion Plan or a day or week of using the Passion Planner you can download pages here.

Both planners include dedicated spaces for gratitude which is excellent.

Both planners have blank pages to take notes though the Passion Planner has more and includes graph paper which makes my nerd heart happy.

If you’re into aesthetics the Panda Planner is minimalist. Different versions of the planner come in different colors but they’re all matte covers with the imprint of a panda.

The Passion Planner is beautiful and each week includes a different inspirational quote.

If neither of these planners feel right for you then I would recommend checking out Day Designer. Like the two above, Day Designer has a host of free printables so you can try before you buy. Day Designer planners are expensive but they’ve collaborated with Blue Sky to offer a modified Day Designer at Target for a much more affordable price.

Commit 30 is a planner specifically designed for academics (yay!) and you can print out a trial version here.

Do you have a favorite planner or planning method that’s helped you be productive?

Share it in the comments!

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