I know the term nesting has been traditionally used for pregnancy. Even so, I always seem to have my own version of nesting before a new school year. My academic nesting process has been pretty routine, whether I prepared my third grade classroom for seven years or syllabi for two years. Every August was a month of rebirth as I contemplated what to keep, what to change, and how to approach the new year.

Last August I focused on creating my work space, getting a meal prep plan going, and mapping out my weeks to determine when I would study and when I would chill.

My office nook used cubes, one for each class, and a dry-erase calendar. These were really helpful when keeping me organized and on-task. Both systems, which are used by a billion people, worked for me when I was teaching third grade.

Meal prep was easy-peasy. My husband is also a “clean eater” and works from home. I ended up using some meal prep containers with lids for easy microwaving and storage. At the beginning of the semester I made large batches of one meal. I quickly learned that was boring. As the fall semester came to a close I began making two meals in medium sized batches for variety. Here’s a pic of my mid-semester menu:

food prep

(It was a lighter week because I traveled to Dallas for a conference.)

My planner is my favorite. I use a Passion Planner, which was a kickstarter. I love it so much I have 2 undated planners I bought on super-sale. Life is good. As the school year progressed I added fitness and downtime. Initially I scheduled creative activities like crafting. I quickly discovered scheduling creativity is counterproductive. Now I make time for it when it makes sense.

So, in the Amber world of nesting, one might wonder what worked, what will change, and how will I approach the new year?

What worked: The office nook was perfect. It worked until the end of the semester when I had projects with several journal articles. I am old-school and print articles for reference so I can color-code my highlights. This requires quite a bit of real estate. So, toward the end of the semester I tend to migrate to the kitchen table. Or as I refer to it, other desk.

other desk

 What needs to change: Boundaries. This is simple and complicated at the same time. I know my brain is much clearer once I have stepped away from a project. Knowing this has provided a bounty of delish baked goods to co-workers and peers (baking and cooking are my favorite reset buttons). I often carried work over to the couch, which ended up bleeding into what was desperately needed down time. See exhibit Q:


(I do think the adorable at home mani/pedi was likely a brain-break, though… I am making excuses for this as I admit I need to change. Wake up, Ber!) 

My approach to year two: A lot of things went right in my first year of my doctoral program. I had super rad grades, I co-presented at three conferences, my assitantship gave me endless opportunities, and I learned so much!

I would like to make time to volunteer. I have a few irons in the fire, though this process is slow. I also volunteered to be a mentor. I am happier when helping others. This is a void I noticed last year when I was not teaching. Helping others is something I need to feel fulfilled. This will happen for sure.

I think I need to be a bit kinder to myself along the way as well. My inner Leslie Knope was a driving force last year. This is just a part of who I am: driven, high expectations, tunnel vision… but those attributes can take over and prevent sleep, chill time, and a rational understanding of when to walk away from a project for a bit.

knope me

I think I need to be 85% Leslie, 10% the Fonz, and 5% Peter from Office Space. I didn’t include the Fonz below because his coolness cannot be contained in a photo collage.


I am looking forward to taking what I have learned about myself as a doctoral student and making year two of my program even more amazing. I know there will be moments that I will feel overwhelmed- the work I am doing is important. I need to understand that, while my work is important, so is balance. I will make time for myself, my family, and helping others.

Cheers to a new (school) year!



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