Motivation and Productivity in the Summer

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Summer in Chicago is awesome. We’re generally done with the snow by June, and the thunderstorms from our two-week-long spring have started to taper off. When July hits, street festival season is already in full swing, along with the greasy sausages, cheap beers, and bands that had a popular single 15 years ago that are the cornerstones of any good block party. The heat and humidity of August would be insufferable, if not for the miles of beautiful lakefront at our disposal.

I confess that my productivity wanes a little when summer rolls around. Just look at the frequency of my posts on this site - as soon as it gets warm enough to fire up the grill, my priorities shift. But I don’t think I’m the only one who’d rather be barbecuing on the beach than staring at a computer all day. It seems like everybody has trouble getting work done when the weather turns nice.

A recent New Yorker blog post looked at a bunch of primary research on the relationship between weather and productivity, and it seems to support the idea that people are less motivated in the summertime. Several studies found that people were most productive when they were experiencing - or even thinking about - bad weather. For instance, workers stayed on the job longer, and got more done with their time, on days when it was raining compared to sunny days.

One possible explanation is that our minds are more prone to wandering in the summertime: the longer days and increased sunlight put us in good moods, and we don’t think as hard about things when we’re in a good mood as we do when we’re stressed or in a bad mood. We know that sunlight can have a dramatic effect on mood and mental health, so it seems reasonable that it can affect our motivation as well.

Of course, weather is only one piece of the puzzle. It isn’t like the sun directly causes our motivation to disappear, or that rainy days magically increase our work ethic. And of course, everyone has their own personal feelings about different weather patterns. I’m sure there are people out there who are much happier when there’s a light drizzle than when it’s bright and hot outside.

Still, it’s nice to know that a little summertime laziness is normal, and not an accurate reflection of my work ethic. Hopefully my adviser takes that into consideration during my next review!

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