Advice / Commentary

Staying Motivated in the Summer

With all this recent hot weather and sunshine (finally) I increasingly find myself sat at my desk staring longingly out of the window. This has long been a favourite pastime of mine, but during the summer months the work to aimless staring ratio gets a little skewed.


Is it just me who finds it more difficult to stay motivated and goal oriented during the summer months? Campus is quieter, the undergraduates are gone and my supervisor has more time for me. Surely this should equal productivity overload?! But no. No matter how quiet the campus may be, no matter how much easier it is to get access to the equipment and library materials I need, my brain would rather be at home in the garden or lay out on a beach somewhere exotic.

A quick Google tells me I’M NOT ALONE.

I found numerous subreddit pleas for help and have collated some of the best responses here:

  • Generally, whether it’s just mental or actual, take a vacation!
  • Well, it’s currently 11am and I’m still at home in my pyjamas, despite telling myself that I would go on campus today to do writing/research. When you get an answer for this, please let me know 😉
  • What the hell does summer even mean? Treat grad school like a job…the days of having a summer break are long gone. You’re an adult 
  • Checklists keep me on track and thanks to regular progress, I got out a decent paper last year. Also, checklists help keep me from spending more than 6-8 hours in the lab per day.
  • I AM going to comment on this article but I need to change my desktop first.
  • It may seem counter productive, but spend less time in lab. Plan a couple of experiments in a week, and only be there for the amount of time it takes to get them done. Don’t sit at your computer during incubation times, go for a walk.
  • Don’t worry, a few months of little or no productivity is a drop in the bucket. Your brain and your body need a break, give it to them. You’ll come back more motivated, more creative and more productive.
  • I found it a good habit to always kept a notebook with to-do list that I want to get done for each day.
  • Exercise; it’s absolutely essential to get the blood flowing. It gives you energy throughout the day, and helps you focus when all you can think about is sleep and/or YouTube/Netflix/TV/TheBeach.
  • Get an early start – Wake up early, make some breakfast, and get right to work. It’s far easier to start productive than it is to switch from relaxed to productive later in the day 
  • I actually work better during the summer. I have none of the commitments that keep me distracted throughout the school year so I can consistently just work through a full day and get stuff done. Even waking up is easier, since the sun comes up at 5 instead of 8:30 like it does in the dead of winter here.
  • I can’t stay motivated either. So I try to be organized and maintain a schedule so I don’t fall into lethargy. In the lab at 8, lunch at noon, read after lunch, workout at 5 ect. Having a schedule makes sure you get stuff done, even if the motivation is gone. I don’t usually schedule the full day, assuming something will come up and distract me, but having a plan helps.
  • It’s hot, muggy, and generally unpleasant. I’ll stay in my nice chilly lab, thank you very much.
  • It’s quite ironic that I read this at work instead of working on my proposal draft.
  • I go on a 4 week backpacking holiday
  • Avoid looking outside.

So there you have it. Get over yourself, you’re a grown up and summer holidays are a thing of the past, get to work and forget the outside world exists. Or pack up and go on holiday for a month.

I’m thinking the answer lies somewhere in between these extremes. Set yourself achievable daily goals but also dedicate some time to relax.

Hey, chances are it will be raining again tomorrow anyway.




One thought on “Staying Motivated in the Summer

  1. Thanks for the good quality reddit research my friend.

    For anyone really struggling, you can’t underestimate the power of setting some routines. Getting a regular sleep pattern sorted is hugely beneficial, for example, yet this is something most PhD’s struggle with.

    Failing that, get yourself a guided meditation app and commit to about 10 minutes a day, its been working for me.

    Good luck.

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