The fall semester starts next week, and I’m bracing myself for the question, “so, did you have a productive summer”? Well, it depends on what you mean by “productive.” By the usual academic metrics (e.g. number of pages written, chapters completed, etc.) the answer would be “no.” I wrote a couple of book reviews, reviewed a couple of manuscripts, but didn’t make much progress on any of my writing projects, other than to submit an article, have it rejected by one journal, and send it off to another without revising it.
Now, I wasn’t exactly idle — see the above bit about the book and manuscript reviews. I also attended ThatCamp which you’ve all read about in my series of posts. I did a bunch of background reading for my new project and for classes I’m teaching in the upcoming semester. In other words, I was busily engaged in professional development (to use academic jargon).
However, I also took the summer to recharge and try some new things. I tried out stand-up paddle boarding (including a yoga class on the boards, aka SUP Yoga). I did a mountain bike skills clinic. I grew some awesome vegetables and built a new flower garden out of a section of dead lawn. I took a cooking class celebrating Julia Child’s 100th birthday. And, of course, I did a lot of knitting.
I was having a few twinges of regret until this past Sunday, when I read this article in the New York Times, written by Jason Fried from 37signals. Fried writes, “Change is important. When we were growing up, we got summers off from school. Summer vacation was change. It was something to look forward to. A few months of something different really meant a lot. We grow out of a lot as we grow up. One of the most unfortunate things we leave behind is a regular dose of change. Nowhere is this more evident than at work.” I couldn’t agree more. so, to get back into this groove, the company “tried something new. We decided to give everyone the month of June to work on whatever they wanted. It wasn’t vacation, but it was vacation from whatever work was already scheduled. We invited everyone to shelve their nonessential work and to use the time to explore their own ideas.” Fried found “June-on-your-own experiment led to the greatest burst of creativity I’ve seen from our 34-member staff. It was fun, and it was a big morale booster.”
What a relief! I’m hoping that my choice to embrace change this summer will reap benefits this semester, not just in terms of productivity but also overall mental and physical well-being. I’m already feeling less stressed out thank I usually do at this time of year. Here’s to “unproductivity”!