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Careers Café

Summer rhythms


We are now well into the summer. For most academics, your work rhythm changes substantially.

Summer is when you anticipate really diving into your research.

  • Longer field work is possible.
  • Or, lengthy visits to archives.
  • You can really get into flow with your writing.
  • You can catch up on some of your reading.

You have high expectations for how much research you’ll get done during this period of no teaching or service obligations.

Of course, you also need some down time. You were probably exhausted at the end of term and exhaustion is not conducive to serious intellectual labour. And you need reserves of energy to get you through the fall semester.

If you have children, you will have taken advantage of the gap between the end of your semester and the end of theirs. Now that the kids are off school, you need to figure out how to balance family and work in different ways.

Friends might want to get together to go paddling, have a BBQ or hang out at the beach.

You might have house and garden projects that you want to do over the summer, too.

You’ve got 8 weeks left until Labour Day.

What can you reasonably accomplish in that time?

Have you allowed for a holiday? Will you arrive at the beginning of term with enough energy to last you through to the Christmas break?

What kind of work rhythm has been working for you? Is it a reasonable rhythm or have you been pushing yourself?

What would happen if you allowed yourself to work on the projects that are most compelling to you? If you gave yourself permission to only work 6 hours a day? or 4? If you scheduled time to play?

Are you forcing yourself to work indoors at a desk so it looks like Real Work™? Might you get more done on the deck? In the hammock?

Are you forcing yourself to work through the hottest part of the day? What if you got up early, worked for a few hours, had a leisurely lunch, a nap, a swim, and then started work again in the late afternoon? Might you be more productive in the same number of hours?

Have you thought about not setting an alarm? Picking the kids up early from their activities to go swimming or to the park?

You are not lazy.

I’m betting that if you list everything you’ve accomplished this summer, you’ve done a lot. If you take a break you will work again.

Who cares whether your neighbours think you are working? One of the great attractions of academic work is flexibility and autonomy.

Experiment with enjoying summer and getting research done. See what happens.

Jo VanEvery is a career coach who specializes in helping academics. Find her at
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