So, it's associated with lower efficiency. I've come back from conferences full of enthusiasm to develop my papers, but there is a pile of admin and teaching to get through immediately.
Any tips on how to juggle better to keep a sense of flow going and also not feel resentful at time for writing being eaten away by a wave of reviews, references, timetabling, moderation and marking? What mental or other tricks do you use?
I only review if it's a paper that's directly relevant to my subject area and I would want to read anyway. Otherwise it's half a day (review plus a few emails) on something that isn't my core goal.
Marking is awful and blots out everything else, I'd just do it to get rid of it as I don't find it feasible to write papers after hours of mind-numbingly boring essays.
My only trick is either a) get everything out of the way that's truly urgent and will actually get me into trouble if I don't do it, so moderation and marking b) work on papers in the morning so there's a few hours under my belt, I can then do emails/refs in the afternoon/evening and c) say no to practically everything that isn't a paper or essential teaching or absolutely essential for my career.
This is probably not a collegiate way to proceed, but the workload is too great, something has to give and I won't let it be my mental health or everyday happiness.
I agree - learn to say no to things that aren't essential or aren't really your job. This is probably the single biggest difference between male and female academics.
I flip my schedule and do teaching preparation/admin at home in the evening so I can keep more of my day clear for research.
I used to make the mistake of trying to get all the admin bits out of the way first, but now I tend to leave them, and clear my most productive times (early morning and around 4-7pm) for proper work.
Thank you - you're all so sensible and this really helps. Sadly today was frittered away; I'm very slightly burned out and just too tired to focus enough to prioritise. Tomorrow, though!
Great advice from foureyes
I'm amazed by how compelling the idea is that you have to get the admin out of the way and then just crack your knuckles and pump out deep intellectual work. It just doesn't work. We know it doesn't work. Yet we continue to wipe out day after day hacking away at the inbox.
I've stopped waiting for that elusive whole research day to get on with the next stage of analysis or writing, and instead I've started using smaller blocks of time (say 1-4 hrs) to move the research on. It's working well, especially if that block comes earlier in the day. I can get quite a bit done, and little and often makes it easier to get back into than if whole weeks go by between opening my files. A data diary also helps me hit the ground running at the next opportunity - mine is a log of what I did, where the work is kept, and what the next steps are. If my research time comes in the morning I also get a boost from moving things on when I inevitably have to turn to less exciting things AND it seems to make me more efficient with the admin / teaching stuff when I'm on a time limit in the afternoon (nursery run won't wait).
It's an eternal battle, but this latest tweak is working well for me.
I found this link which is really simple advice:
I like the 7 rocks thing - but struggling to really identify what is a rock, what is a pebble and what is sand. They shift shape from thr stand point of my teaching VP and my research VP :/
I work 5-7am most days before the children get up. In this time I do not check emails or do admin - I ONLY write papers, write grants, or do data analysis for those papers or grants.
Obviously I'm an early bird and any block of time you set aside to ONLY do research is helpful. I think first thing is particularly good though as no one else is awake, it is silent, you can't be reasonably expected to check your emails and your brain is not distracted by the thousand tasks you've already done that day!
woooooo 5 to 7am!?
my brain is just not functioning this early :/
Ultimately we shouldn't have to be getting up at 5 to do research though. I would love for someone in charge of the workload systems to actually ask me how long admin and teaching tasks really take and the best way to maximise my research time, but the people who do the workload systems are only concerned with admin and teaching and assume we'll pack our research around that, because we have to for promotion etc. It really needs to change if they want us to balance everything. Or maybe I need to adopt the male academic model of doing no admin and having to be chased on all my teaching work!
The main problem with workload systems is that they don't take into account the real amount of time that admin and teaching takes. This would mean admitting that it takes more than 60% (or whatever fraction it's meant to be) of a 40 hour week, even averaged over the periods of university vacations.
For example, my university would count 100 hours of lecturing as 500 hours of teaching over the year. This sounds generous enough that 1 hour in the classroom is given 5 hours, but 5 hours doesn't actually take into account all the time spent marking, preparing the course, setting exams, email exchanges with students, office hours with students, meetings with students who are having difficulties, printing out and collecting resources, sorting out timetabling issues, attending curriculum meetings, discussing the course with colleagues teaching related courses etc etc .....
Agree about workload systems, mind you over time you get to know what gets more hours in the workload system but isn't as much hassle as some other things, people just end up playing the system (like taking admin jobs with large hours but don't do that much). I am not playing it but I don't take on as much as I used to and see no reason to be permanently on 120% capacity.
Getting up at 5am isn't for me, I feel physically ill that time of day. I really do work standard hours 9-5ish, and some emailing at night and that's it.
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