Skip to main content

Summertime, and the Living is Easy--Or Not

                                                                                                                                                         
So it's finally summer.  You've turned in your grades, you've finished TAing that horrible class that took all of your time, and your department is winding down its endless meetings.  Now you can get down to your own writing, right?  You can finally work on your own work that you've been putting off because you had to get those papers graded and go over all those tests.  Well, yes and no.  If you've been teaching this academic year and have minimal teaching and administrative responsibilities this summer, then yes, you will have a great deal more time.  But what you probably won't have is a lot more energy.  In fact, you'll probably be a bit burned out, or experiencing some version of Academic Exhaustion syndrome.  In that case, seriously consider taking some sort of break to mark the end of the term.  Go away for a long weekend, or even (gasp!) a week, and use that time to regroup and recharge so that you can come back refreshed and ready to work.

Then, when you come back (or maybe even before you leave), make a plan for what you want to accomplish this summer and how you want to handle it.  Be sure that plan is realistic, and that you're not trying to cram twelve months worth of writing and research into three months.  Find out what your optimal length writing session is and how many separate sessions you can productively fit into a day.  If you find that your attention wanes after 45 or 50 minutes, there's no point trying to work for an hour and a half or two hours.  Likewise, if you find that you can fit in several 25 or 30 minute sessions, make sure that you're not planning for too many in a row.  Break up your day with other activities.  Allow yourself to have breaks.  If you are the kind of person who works well working straight through, then go ahead and plan for your two or three hours, but then carefully monitor your energy levels.  As Eviatar Zerubavel says in The Clockwork Muse, if you go over your optimal length writing session, you may just experience diminishing returns.  Be aware of that possibility and plan preemptive strategies to circumvent it.

The summer is a great opportunity to get work done, and many academics flourish during it.  But don't get caught up in the trap of thinking that because you have "all this time" that you are required to use every second of it.  Think about what is realistic and what is going to help you make the most advantage of your time.  Make sure your summer writing goals aren't so large that you're just going to frustrate yourself.  And remember that the same strategies that work for squeezing in the writing during the academic year can often be employed in the summer as well.  It's really the flip-side of the same problem; either way, you're faced with the challenge of managing your energy as well as your time.

What are your goals for the summer?  And do you have any particular tips or strategies to help other academics handle the summer paradox of "too much time?"

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

"ABD" -- what does it really mean?

I thought I knew what the definition of ABD was. It was exactly the same as defined here in Carnegie Mellon's University Doctoral Candidate Policies for All But Dissertation (ABD):
After the completion of all formal degree requirements other than the completion of and approval of the doctoral dissertation and the public final examination, doctoral candidates shall be regarded as All But Dissertation(ABD).I have, though, occasionally run into the term ABD being used as a somewhat disparaging designation for one who fulfills the formal degree requirements of the Ph.D. but never finishes the dissertation, and then quits the program. Most recently, I saw it in What They Didn't Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career, by Paul Gray and David E. Drew.

Number 9 of their helpful hints is one that I strongly agree with: "Remember that a Ph.D. is primarily an indication of survivorship." They go on to say, "You stuck with it …

Academic Exhaustion Syndrome: Four Recovery Strategies

The semester’s over.
If you’re anything like the academics I coach, you feel like death warmed over.  Those last stacks of grading got done on sheer will, determination and fumes. And this is before considering your writing deadlines, committee responsibilities, and other demands.  You are suffering from Academic Exhaustion Syndrome. 
Academic Exhaustion Syndrome (an advanced, more scholarly state of burn out) is a state of emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, ending with grading, over the course of the semester and academic year. As the stress continues, you begin to lose interest and motivation to work, you have fantasies of standing up and screaming in the middle of a meeting, and you wonder what temporary loss of reality testing made you decide to become an academic. 
This dreaded Syndrome can: Reduce your productivity and saps your energyMake you irritable and have thoughts of strangling an undergraduateMake you feel like you have nothing more to give. Cr…

Holiday Challenge

Are you going to try to work on your dissertation or publication over the winter break?

I'd like to offer a holiday/winter break challenge to anyone who would like to take me up on it.

Post what you'd like to work on (if anything) over the holidays, and the maximum amount of time you'd like to spend on it daily. Please keep this time limit reasonable and low unless you're under huge deadine pressure -- in which case you don't need this challenge in order to get something done! Then you can go back to this post daily, weekly or just at the end of the challenge (shall we say January 15?) to say how you did, to tell us about your problems or to encourage and commiserate with others.

So, to summarize:
Post what you're working onPost your daily time commitmentPost again periodically to tell us how you're doing -- I'll receive all posts as emails and will comment and encourage you!Good luck and happy holidays!