Survival Guide to the Summer – Structure

by Eszter Szép

Summer is the worst. I have to start with this fact to give you guys a clear picture: you have to know that summer is the worst. Weatherwise, it is way too hot to exist. In the library there is either no air conditioning or it is freezing, or you simply do not even make it to the library. But the reason why summer is the worst is the illusion of having plenty of time to do stuff.

The biggest challenge for me is to remain productive for weeks when time is not structured, to work despite the illusion that time is endless. So here are the five points that have helped me survive the worst:

  1. Start early and listen to an audiobook.
    Case: I am not a morning person, my brain practically sleepwalks even after I get up. I can spend hours doing nothing, though these activities, like scrolling Instagram, at the time of doin, always seems to be something meaningful.
    What I started: Recently I started to listen to an audiobook every morning during my morning routine, and I am a lot more efficient this way. I am not glued to my laptop, I do stuff while listening, and most importantly, my brain wakes up because it has to concentrate. It is easier to start reading / writing after this.
    I chose an audiobook that I have read already and still enjoy, so there is less chance that I’d end up glued to it, eager to listen to the next chapter.
    Fun part: Even if I don’t do stuff, I am listening to an audiobook! And the day is started.
  2. Track the rhythm of the day.
    Case: I am an official, certified, expert procrastinator. For me time is like sand, and in the morning the day always seems to be the Sahara: plenty of sand. Then the panic comes.
    What I started: So I decided to track what I do and for how long. I record how much time I actually spend on doing something. I have been doing this for a while and it helps me see in which part of the day I am the most efficient, or which activity takes the most time. It also helps overcome the panic when I remember the fact that I should be writing.
  3.  Do sports 5 times a week.
    Case: My back hurts if I sit and sit and sit and sit at a desk.
    What I started: At first it seemed to take too much time to go for a run, to the gym or to the yoga studio. What a waste of precious research time! I was arguing with myself, etc. But sport does give me something to look forward to at the end of the day, it does help me keep on reading / writing. It also means leaving my room, seeing fellow human beings is actually good for you.
    Fun part: When I actually do sports five times, – which means I can have two days off, – I am so proud. I love being proud of myself. 🙂
  4.  List your weekly goals, and cross them out once accomplished.
    Oh man, I love erasing, eradicating, and effacing items from my to do list.
  5. Love your work.
    Sometimes I don’t have the energy to prepare one more chapter, or to read three more articles. Sometimes things seem pointless and dark. Quite often, actually. But at the end of the day I return to the feeling I felt when I started my PhD: that it’s a privilege.

    survival guide


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