Seasonal Cycles

Drone footage of Wellesley
Typically when people talk about the rhythms of academic life, they mean the cycles of the academic calendar. Ordering books, getting a syllabus ready, midterms, graduation–these events all provide opportunities for taking stock and for constantly restarting.

Against that rhythm, seasonal change can seem like something to be overcome: It’s dark out by 4pm, so how am I going to exercise? Flu season!? If it’s 15 degrees out, why are the students in shorts and flip-flops? Too hot to have class inside, too nice to have class outside.

In New England, we are currently in that week where the trees are well into changing, but it’s still probably not safe to fully pack away warm-weather clothing. Fall is sort of here, but it was basically 85 degrees last week. It’s frustrating.

A week or so ago longtime friend-of-Profhacker Matt Thomas wrote a thoughtful post pushing back against that frame: “Well, we live in a world of seasons—and increasingly more variable and violent seasons at that—but productivity advice seems to always think in terms of the day, the week, the year, or five years, never the season, the sun, and the shadow.”

It can be helpful, he suggests, to lift up one’s head briefly from the day-to-day rush of productivity, or the minute-by-minute horror of contemporary news, and work a little with seasonality and embodiment:

Fall is a time to write for me as well, but it also means welcoming—rather than fighting against—the shorter days, the football games, the decorative gourds. Productivity writer Nicholas Bate’s seven fall basics are more sleep, more reading, more hiking, more reflection, more soup, more movies, and more night sky. I like those too. The winter will bring with it new things, new adjustments. Hygge not hay rides. Ditto the spring. Come summer, I’ll feel less stress about stopping work early to go to a barbecue or movie because I know, come autumn, I’ll be hunkering down. More and more, I try to live in harmony with the seasons, not the clock. The result has been I’m able to prioritize better.

I’m sure he means European football, as the games start to pile up thick and fast, but otherwise this sense of giving yourself permission to catch the beat of the surrounding world seems intensely appealing. (He has lots of other examples of this approach in the post, so it really merits reading the whole thing!)

Do you have seasonal goals? How do you set yourself up to work with, rather than only and always against, the weather? Let us know in comments!

Photo “DJI Phantom Vision 2 Plus; Wellesley College Aerial” by Flickr user Soe Lin / Creative Commons licensed BY-ND-2.0

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