Want to have a productive academic year? Start with a mindful summer!
Updated: Dec 9, 2021
Every year, when my summer holidays started, my mother would put away the homework I got for the long days ahead, and say “el verano es para descansar” (in Spanish, “summer is for resting”).
As a primary school teacher, she was well aware of the importance of resting your mind. Teachers, as academics, are in an industry with one of the highest rates of burnout and depression. And she was one of those stats.
It’s a well-known principle that rest is necessary for your mental and physical health. And yet, it’s difficult to apply when we need it the most. But one of my not-so-well-known mantras is that “rest is productive,” and it’s also a principle of my program Mindful Productivity for Scientists. And summer… well, it’s the perfect season to practice that mantra!
But since you probably can’t take the full summer off like school teachers, I’ll share some ideas with you for a “relaxed” approach to summer school work.
Set goals for the new, productive academic year
Ending your day with a clear image of tomorrow’s plans can help you disconnect from work properly. But that’s not all; it can also boost your productivity the next day by giving you a focused and quick start.
The same happens with your holidays. Ending your work period with clear goals and a plan for when you come back from holidays will help you ease back into work with more productivity and happiness. And I tell you this as someone with serious post-holiday “blues”!
You can set goals for a full, productive academic year, but I’d honestly recommend that you first focus on the 4 months you’ll have till the end of the year (generally September-December).
But not all goals are created equal! ;) And you can have a look at this blog post on how to do your goal setting in an effective way and get the matching workbook to have it all in place. And if you’d like to have space and time to set those goals together in a guided way, I have a 2.5-hour online workshop on goal setting you can do at any time! You can read more about it here.
Connect with people
For many of us, summer means connection.
Meeting friends at the park for a picnic after work. Spending a day at the beach. Or sitting on a terrace till it’s dark. I take it all. It’s the season for relationships.
This is especially true if in winter you feel like hibernating in a cave and not seeing anyone (totally normal). Summer is the opposite (although I recently heard not everyone feels this way!).
It’s also the season of connection at work. It’s the season to go to conferences. To start new collaborations. To have lunch with colleagues from other departments to discuss new ideas.
You may feel like giving a talk to your department. Or maybe writing that short article for outreach (don’t miss this post and the masterclass either!).
Enjoy connections this summer because it’s one of the more fun ways to set yourself up for a productive academic year in the fall.
Rest and let yourself be bored to be productive
Teresa, one of my students of the Mindful Productivity for Scientists course, recently told us this story.
On a Sunday in the middle of the pandemic, she and her boyfriend decided to have the laziest Sunday in ages. They did nothing. They just crashed on the sofa, watched Netflix, slept, and ate easy meals for a whole day. Until they were bored.
Then, on Monday, she had the most productive day she’d had in months.
This story isn’t unique. Evidence shows that when we feel we’re not doing anything, a lot is actually happening in our brains. Being bored is something really difficult in the times we live in, but it’s so important…..
To put distance from our work is crucial for creativity, productivity and happiness! Summer is the perfect moment to close your work email for days - ideally weeks. Maybe even doing a social media detox (or a simpler version, like deleting the apps from your phone).
And the summer gives you an excellent opportunity to rest and recharge your batteries for a productive academic year! So, let’s start recharged instead of depleted.
Creativity requires new neurological connections in your brain. And it’s no surprise that often this happens in situations when you’re exposed to things totally unrelated to your scientific work. Like admiring a piece of art, or dancing during a concert. Or after doing one of the meditations for scientists you can get here. Many of those moments of having fun.
And creativity is critical for you as a scientist. You can have a look at this article of Marten Scheffer, on the forgotten half of scientific thinking.
Do those things that nourish your soul. So you won’t only start the academic year recharged, but also full of inspiration and ideas! And happy from having so much fun!
Whether you’re into astrology or not, summer and its higher number of hours of sunlight translates into a boost of energy for most people. So be sure you spend as much time as possible outdoors (don’t forget your sunscreen though), in contact with nature. Whether at the beach, forest, or in the mountains… The benefits of being outdoors and in contact with nature go beyond the happiness that it gives you. It also translates into a productive academic year when you return happy in the fall.
With this, I want to wish you an amazing summer holiday. And also, an amazing beginning of the new academic year! To help you set those goals and review the past year, you can sign up to my online workshop: S.M.A.R.T. goals for scientists (the "mindful way"). It is a video workshop to do it at your own time, and you can find all the information here. As always, I’d love to see you there!