How to Work in Tune with the Changing Seasons
Here, we talk about how people have adapted to work in harmony with nature, the land and the seasons. We ask the question: should you change your study patterns to align with the seasons – and, if so how?
Historically, we have adapted
Throughout human history, people have adapted to their environment and found new ways to make the most of the resources to hand. They have devised clever strategies to survive sometimes unforgiving climates.
Those working the land, for example, have traditionally started and finished work at slightly different times, depending on when the sun rose and set. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the custom of ‘tattie holidays’ started in the 1930s and were a two-week period in the autumn (now the autumn half-term break) during which young people were excused from school to help with the local potato harvest.
So, evidently, there’s nothing new about working in harmony with nature, the land and the seasons. But how relevant is that notion to our modern, ‘always on’ digital and screen-bound, 24-hour society in which the concept of seasonal produce, for example, increasingly barely registers, and fewer of us are working outdoors or in natural light? (Not to mention 21st-century offices, which tend to be almost always at a constant temperature.)
In 2022, the Met Office is predicting that the year will be one of the planet’s hottest, continuing a series of record-breaking years that began in 2015. That projection starts this spring, with above-average temperatures expected.
So should you be starting to change your study patterns to align with the seasons – and, if so, how?Should you change your study patterns to align with the seasons - and, if so how? Click To Tweet
Working fewer hours for more focused work
One person who would definitely agree is Jason Fried, CEO of US software firm Basecamp (formerly 37Signals). He told the New York Times that his business’s work schedules do change with the seasons. From May to October, staff work four days a week, and still regular hours rather than working additional hours in fewer days to make up the time. The thinking is that this leads to focused, better-quality work, although it has to be said that working in tune with seasonal changes is a pretty novel concept in the world of business.
More sunlight equals enhanced energy levels
According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, being exposed to more sunlight, and therefore Vitamin D, can enhance performance and increase energy levels, while also lifting mood.
Personality strengths and weaknesses affected by the time of year
And one interesting study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the official journal of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), reveals that our capacity to memorise is more effective in autumn than during the spring months, which could be vital to know for exam revision. The research, a cross-sectional study of healthy young participants, found that brain responses to cognitive tasks varied with the seasons, even if the ability to perform them remained fairly constant throughout the year.
Brain function peaked between the autumn and spring equinoxes, the study showed. However, it also admitted that currently: “Little is known about seasonal variations in human brain physiology.”
What does seem clear is that different times of year can bring out different strengths and weaknesses in our personalities, even if, for some of us, the way we feel may only change subtly with the seasons. So altering your workflow and study schedules accordingly could breathe fresh life into your studies and revision.
Intriguingly, we perhaps often feel that consistency and stability are goals towards which we should strive. But learning to understand the ways in which we might feel differently at varying times of year, and how to use and benefit from the changing seasons, can surely only be helpful.
The spring, for example, might make you feel energetic, the autumn emotional. You may want to use the summer to consolidate what you have done during the year thus far, while also making time for a holiday or leisurely activities.
Aligning your tasks with your mood, focus, or motivation
Of course, some tasks need to be completed all year round. So altering your workflow with the seasons definitely doesn’t mean you can ignore the things that really need to be done. However, it’s a good idea to know which tasks align with your mood each season – that way you can have the tasks you enjoy the most lined up for when the more mundane jobs are out of the way.
Finally, if you feel that a few weeks’ holiday a year never seems to be enough, you’re certainly not alone. And if, like most people, you can’t afford to take more than your allotted days of paid leave off, try at least to have one season which you set aside as a period for reflection and consolidation of learning, with as much rest as possible. It could do wonders for your focus and motivation – crucially, that time of year doesn’t have to be the summer.
Adapting workflow with the seasons may not be suitable, or even possible, for everyone – but it could well be something to think about, even if that just means, for example, getting up earlier in the summer to put in a couple of good hours first thing, before taking some time off in the afternoon to enjoy being outdoors.