I’ve reached the end of my two-week schoolwork break. I’ve gotten a chance to catch up with friends and family, and spent five days in San Francisco. I’ve almost finished my (incomprehensible mumbling of an embarrassingly high number) re-read of the Harry Potter series. It’s been lovely.

Though I’m not doing anything this summer in the way of teaching or grading, I’ve got plenty on my plate, a lot of it put on the “to do later” list during the school year (/the last several school years…). So, without further ado, five things you can do (and I’ll be doing) as a graduate student during summer “break”:

  1. Organize your note-taking and documents storage systems. In my first year of graduate school, the history and theory class I was taking spent two full sessions (that’s six hours) going over the various note-taking, document storage, and productivity tools that make all the information you’re processing easier to access throughout grad school and in professional life. Possibly the most helpful six hours of class time ever. I use Evernote for note-taking and -keeping and Google Drive for document storage. Use whatever platform(s) works best for you. My goal this summer is to settle on a citation manager and figure out how to use it.
  2. Brush up on that language(s) you need for your research. Reviewing grammar and vocab is great, but it’s the summer, so mix it up and keep it fun! In addition to academic texts and primary documents, read news, listen to music, and watch TV shows and films.
  3. Prepare for the coming year. Check out your institution’s graduate student handbook and see where you’re at in meeting the requirements. What do you need to do in the next year to keep you on track, whether you’re still in coursework, preparing for exams, setting out on research trips, or completing dissertation grants? What can you do this summer to make the school year (or at least part of it) a little more bearable?
  4. Update (or create) your five-year plan. Closely related to #3 above, thinking long term helps you stay on track (coursework, exams, grants and fellowships, publication submissions, etc) and keeps all those pesky deadlines (holy grants, Batman) from sneaking up on you. As you progress through your program, it’ll also help you think about life post-grad school and you can begin shaping that sooner rather than later.
  5. Relax. Brain breaks and academic disconnects are necessary for recharging, remembering why you’re doing this, starting the school year refreshed, and getting ready to tackle the next challenge. My plan is to do about four to six hours (let’s be real, four or less is what will most likely actually happen) of concentrated work per day, Monday through Friday, with weekends and a few vacations completely off.

Any other suggestions?