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From PhD to Life

Why it’s good to hit the summer reset button


This summer I decided to take a month off. Other than a couple weeks off in December, I’d been working steadily from August into June, with January-May as especially busy. Busy is good – a sign of a growing business – but there’s not much point in a stressed-out life coach.

So I booked off the entire month of July. My original intention was to take a complete break from client work, and only do some work. I thought I would revisit my languishing book project, and sort out my business systems with the help of a consultant. And that I would give myself permission to mostly not do any work.

Well, mid-way through the month I felt stressed! I was doing this incorrectly, I realized. Forget the book, put the business stuff on hold, and really not work. That’s what I did for the rest of July and it was glorious. I read a bunch of novels. I tended to my plants. I cooked. I cleaned my apartment. I hosted a few friends for dinner. By August I felt completely relaxed and ready to start getting back to my projects and clients.

I am incredibly grateful that I was able to take the time off. And I want to make sure I make the best of what I learned. I want to build good lifestyle habits that keep me feeling happy and healthy, ones that stay with me now that I’m back into a regular work schedule.

Among the reasons why I wanted to take a break this summer was that my work-life balance was out of whack. I work from home and I love it, but I need to impose structure so I don’t end up working to exhaustion. This is on me to fix, and here’s what I’m doing about it:

  • Breakfast: I’ve taken to reminding myself that I don’t have to love what I eat, as long as I do in fact eat it. My current fruit + cooked rolled oats is working for now. Ongoing project.
  • Lunch: I’m in my mid-30s and I seem to get by on less food than I used to need. I try to remember this so I don’t end up overeating and feeling lethargic in the afternoon. Ideally, lunch involves leftovers from the night before, or something quick that I can pull together from what I have on hand.
  • Exercise: I recently purchased a step-tracker and have taken to going on long walks in the evenings. This is step 1. Step 2 will be getting back to the gym – running and weight exercises. One step at a time is the only way this is going to work.
  • Dinner: I’ve been less successful at preparing healthy meals in the evenings than I’d like. It helps to make a plan the day before, so I can be sure to get any missing ingredients on my evening walk.
  • Evening: No work in the evenings, generally.
  • Weekend: No work on the weekends, generally. Cook a couple meals for the week.

Part of me feels embarrassed to share this with you. Aren’t these basic life skills? Yes and no. I’ve spent much of the past three years focused on my business. I got away with this because I wasn’t as busy as I might be. But this past academic year I had plenty to do and unfortunately I jettisoned some newer habits that I was building, like going to the gym.

My summer reset gave me time to reflect on my priorities and act on them. This month I’ll fill my work schedule again – but within a healthier, more manageable framework. That’s the plan.

Jennifer Polk
Jennifer Polk is a career coach and entrepreneur. She earned her PhD in history from the University of Toronto in 2012. For more information and resources, check out her website:
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