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How to remain productive over the summer
July 24, 2012 - 9:14pm

Summer is here, and for most of us it is also spelled as v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n: sunny days, ice cream, mint juleps, children at play, and long family evenings. But this is not all there is to it…

In a recent post, I was writing about the constraints that internationalization imposes on the academic schedule even during the summer. This year, I am concerned with how I can remain productive while enjoying some relaxed days away from office.

The first dilemma I face is whether or not I should have my computer with me during the vacation weeks. Most of the time I hesitate to carry it around.  It is heavy and when computing in the weight of my carry-on luggage, I do not feel that its added value really amounts to that much. On the other hand, can I be entirely disconnected from the world? Do I want to be out of reach? And how about the key word here, productivity?
I argue that there are ways to be productive without a computer on board. In terms of communication and email, a smart phone is enough to keep in touch with what is going on with one’s students or with other relevant news and activities from the academic world. Checking the Internet once a day or every other day should satisfy most needs and, with WiFi increasingly available in hotels and restaurants, this process is convenient in almost every country.

Productivity is not measured in the number of pages written. So one can travel without a computer and focus not on writing but on reading and/or sorting out gathered research material. I see the summer vacation as a great opportunity to read, and after the first (or second) novel, I feel ready to dive into the academic book pile I gather during the semester. I find reading academic books and articles to be quite relaxing; reading them gives me inspiration and excitement, it stimulates my imagination and gives me new ideas for my courses or for my research. Even if I do take notes when I read these books, I prefer more often than not to keep their main ideas in my memory, sort of “baking” slowly at the back of my mind.

Depending on the type of work that one is involved with, one can also use the holiday weeks as a time to go through their research material. I am currently working on a project that uses photographs of Eurosymbols as one type of empirical material. I find the sorting of pictures, their categorization and mapping, a pleasant activity that is not categorized as “work”. Once this groundwork is completed I can proceed to the write-up of my findings in the shape of articles and conference papers, which I save for my active work days. Summer, however, gives me that time to put order to the data and into my own thoughts.

Finally, since the word “conference” has slipped into my post, one can consider combining business and pleasure and use the destination of a conference as a starting point of holiday travel. Most of the time, the cities hosting conferences are interesting to explore in themselves. If this is not the case, or if they are already well-known destinations, one can use them as departures for a larger exploration of a region or a country. For example last year, several colleagues enjoyed the amazing landscape of Iceland after having participated at a conference in that country’s capital, Reykjavik.

I wish you all a pleasant and productive summer

Anamaria writes from Lund, Sweden. She is one of the founding members of the editorial collective at University of Venus.


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