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What I Did This Summer (What Did I Do This Summer?): Your Guide to Staying Productive During the Summer
Anne Choe, Artistic Services Manager, OPERA America
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ArtistLink7/10/2007

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It is the middle of July. If many of you are like me, that statement strikes a bit of despair and wonderment in your hearts and minds. "The summer is half over! What happened to all my grand plans for the summer?" I had some pretty lofty goals for myself including losing 10 pounds (always at the top of my list), boning up on my knowledge of operatic repertoire, advancing my Italian and French skills, and breaking 90 in my golf game. Unfortunately, my better judgment fails me and I opt for fried goodness rather than salad, Knocked Up rather than Fidelio, and going for the green rather than laying-up. But it's not too late! I can still achieve the things that I'd like to by setting realistic goals, creating an advanced plan, and defining the steps needed to achieve the goals I've set for myself.

Step 1: Have a clear vision of your goal. Ask yourself, "What do I want to achieve and why?" Not every goal has to further your career or be life altering but it is important to examine why you want to achieve these goals.

Step 2: Visualize your success. Many brides lose weight before the wedding with such ease (or so it seems), because they have a vivid image in their minds of walking down the aisle in a white dress looking svelte. Whether you post reminders on your computer, have a mantra, or whatever, it is important to keep your eye on the prize. However, these goals should be attainable, measurable, and have a deadline.

Step 3: Map out a plan. I find it is helpful to create a chart of what my goal is and how I will execute it. For example, if my goal is to expand my knowledge of opera repertoire for 10 operas by September 30, 2007, I write that at the top of a sheet of paper. After that I write three ways in which I will accomplish this, leaving a few lines between each.

  • Listen to recordings
  • Watch opera DVDs
  • Learn the historical context
Under each of these three objectives, I will list specific tasks of what, when, and how often. For example, under "Watch opera DVDs" I would write, "Watch one act of an opera, after dinner on Tuesday and Thursday evenings." The point is to set a larger goal and tackle it by setting smaller and smaller targets. As Matthew Boresi suggested in the April 2006 issue of OPERA America's Voices, "Remember that all your tasks need to be realistic, attainable, and time-specific. For example, 'This week I shall be acknowledged as the greatest lyric spinto heldenbelter of all time' is not realistic. 'I will memorize Les Troyens on Wednesday' is not attainable. 'I shall perfect my Czech diction as soon as I get the chance' will not be accomplished. 'I will spend two hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. learning my role for the Wozzeck performance I'm doing on Christmas Day' is a much more effective goal — and one you'll probably pull off. Although it's doubtful you'll get good turnout for your Christmas Wozzeck."

Step 4: Keep a journal. It can be difficult to maintain determination and enthusiasm over time. Whether you are trying to save money, become more productive, or lose weight, a key factor in your success will be keeping a log. It can help you assess your behavior, accomplishments, and weak points. There are several online tools to help with this. Mindtools.com is a wonderful resource with tips on numerous issues from fighting procrastination to stress management. Dieticians often recommend keeping a food journal when trying to lose weight and fitday.com is an excellent Web site with which you can track your calories and activity levels.

Step 5: Remember to maintain a balance. Your schedule can feel a bit like "feast or famine," especially if you are in school or a year-long program. Even in an office environment, the pace slows down (unless you are in accounting and are going through your audit.) Without the structure of looming deadlines and appointments it is easy to get into the habit of sort of working and sort of relaxing at the same time and doing neither particularly well. Schedule times to relax. It sounds a little neurotic to make an appointment with yourself to take a break, but it will help you to enjoy resting that much more. I am an achievement-oriented person. I feel guilty taking time for myself but when I schedule it in it gives me permission to enjoy myself without worrying about all the other tasks I should be doing. It is the summer, after all, and I still have many days ahead of me for plenty of exploration of new operas, practicing at the driving range, backyard barbeques with my friends, and hot dogs at baseball games.

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