Summer breaks and productivity

After presenting papers at three conferences in St. Catharines, Edmonton, and Barcelona in May, June and July, I spent the past two months on activities largely unrelated to my research, teaching or translating. I read six novels (more than I’ve managed to read in the last three years combined). I repainted parts of the house. I weeded and watered the vegetable garden in our backyard. And I spent a lot of time at playgrounds, splash pads and parks with my children. I did finish correcting two other articles that will soon appear in print, but aside from a book review, I didn’t submit any new texts to journals. In short, I’ve enjoyed the past two months, which were the first extended break I’ve taken from academic activities in several years.

And yet, I’ve still wrestled with the thought that I should be more productive. From time to time, I’ve wondered whether I will regret not getting further along in the survey I’m designing to find out more about what our undergraduate students think about internships. On more than one occasion, I got annoyed that I hadn’t returned to the major research project I’ve been tackling on and off for the past three years. I should be transcribing interviews! Visiting archives! Blogging! And, as the start of the Fall term has drawn closer, I’ve regretted not having the syllabi for all three courses completely finalized.

But working just one day a week for the past eight weeks has taught me that I can spend part of my summer break finishing off just the most pressing tasks without dire consequences. And in those moments when twinges of guilt did make themselves felt, I asked myself whether I would rather my children think of me as the mother who published a thirteenth article this summer, or as the mother who helped them make popsicles with the raspberries from our garden, who guided them through making a jar of pesto with our basil leaves, who showed them how to toss a salad made from the tomatoes that just a few months ago were tiny seeds in our kitchen. I’ll work on that thirteenth article in the fall, and it probably won’t matter at all that I didn’t start it sooner. In fact, I may even try this again next year.

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