By Sam Grinsell |

As we languish in the depths of summer, here are some thoughts on how best to maximise your efficiency through the long days. I assume here that you hunger for academic success to the exclusion of all else. This, after all, is the bare minimum level of ambition required for career success in any walk of life.

1 No rest for the righteous

It should go without saying that you take no time off. Every moment of your summer must be filled with intense effort. These are the months where you can write or research (ideally both) without teaching to distract you, so you should rise with the sun and only break to eat and drink a diet carefully calibrated to maintain steady intellectual energy.

2 See the world

This is the moment to break free from your particular institution and country and seek out new experiences. Do not make the mistake, however, of seeing this as a holiday. In fact, it is the perfect time to network, to schmooze with colleagues across the world and generally make sure that all the right people know who you are. Grow that personal brand.

3 Marginal gains

While others might lose time watching or participating in sport, you can gain an edge on them by adopting sporting training methods to your academic career. Analyse your weaknesses and then design intense practice sessions to address them: if your writing is verbose and vague, rewrite using only the thousand most common words (check a word here); if you feel behind the times because you never learnt to use a reference manager or Photoshop, force yourself to do so; if you’ve never actually read Foucault, time to dive in and skim the complete works in a couple of days. Make constant improvement your mantra.

4 Apply yourself

Write carefully tailored applications for every academic job even vaguely related to your field, in any part of the world. If none are currently being advertised, find some old ones and practice writing materials for those.

5 Dress to impress

Update your conference wardrobe, making sure to choose clothes that can contribute to a range of looks from anonymous professional to maverick intellectual who just emerged from a hedge, because it always helps to be able to adapt, chameleon-like to any academic environment. You can’t get the part if you don’t look the part, so remember that this is a key element of your personal brand and don’t for one moment enjoy yourself.

Break the machines

Of course, none of this is to be followed. We all spend far too much time seeking success to the exclusion of happiness or truth or fellowship, and the greater autonomy we have over the summer ought to be a time for those other things. The things that in fact matter far more. Some of you will be working, others taking holidays, many trying to combine the two. I wish all of you an excellent summer, in which you grow as a person more than as a cog in a machine.


Sam Grinsell is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh and the Deputy Chair of Pubs and Publications.

Image By Rangerdavid [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons