Sorry for the non-posting lately. Things have got a bit manic as summer draws to an end and I try to finish off all my various research projects before I have to begin thinking about teaching again (plus some personal life things).
Sometimes (often) people outside academia ask me if I'm on holiday, or what I'm actually doing. I don't get too annoyed by this, because admittedly it does look very much like I'm on holiday when I'm in the pub on a Tuesday afternoon (for instance). But it's simply that the work we do over the summer is a different kind of work from term-time work.
There are basically three things lecturers do: teaching, research and admin. The idea (I think) is that the proportion should be 2:2:1. My contract is fairly teaching-heavy, so during term time I do a lot more teaching than anything else (and by teaching I mean the actual contact, preparation such as writing lectures and working out module outlines, marking, responding to students, etc). However, I want to remain employable so I still have to do research, and the best time to do this is during the long summer 'holidays'.
We finish teaching in April at my university, and don't begin again till the end of September. There's a lot of admin to be done during that time, and plenty of marking, but there are a good few clear weeks to focus just on research projects in a way that's not possible in term time. Some of my colleagues go off for the whole summer and either work from home or go abroad, maybe to do fieldwork or just to get away. I tend to mix working from home and going into the office, and I allow my working hours to be more flexible so that I can take advantage of what sun we do get if it turns up on a weekday.
This summer, I set myself a few projects that I wanted to work on. Some of these are collaborative, and I've been having regular research meetings with three different people about three different projects. These are all just coming to the point where we have results to analyse and discuss, so now is the time to try and get our teeth into that before there's no more time to think about it.
One thing that I think is essential is not to start on teaching preparation too soon. If you begin it, it can take up the whole summer. That can wait: the 1st of September is when I begin doing it. This is tricky (and there are a couple of little things that have to be done sooner) but it helps me to get more research done. This is a lesson it's taken me a while to learn. Teaching-related tasks are typically more focussed and manageable than 'doing research' so the temptation for me is to 'just do that one thing'. I've learnt now to leave aside those small, easy tasks because otherwise the big, scary ones never get done.
And this year, I've been pleased with what I've done over the summer. It'll take a little bit more effort to get us to the point of having a paper to submit, but a lot of the work has been done.