Given that I’ve felt extra-busy this semester, a few recent discussions of work habits caught my eye. First was a post by Female Science Professor describing three types of people she has encountered:
A Type W person would get a lot done whether they were funded by a research assistantship (RA), a teaching assistantship (TA), a fellowship, or whatever.
A Type X1 person would only make decent research progress if funded by an RA or fellowship. A TA would consume all of X1’s time and energy, not because X1 is more devoted to teaching than W, but because X1 can only focus on one thing at a time.
A Type X2 person would get more done if partially funded by an RA or fellowship and partially by something requiring a bit of structured work — for example, perhaps teaching one lab or discussion section, or perhaps doing some grading or other work like that. If funded entirely by an RA or fellowship, X2 wouldn’t be able to deal effectively with the lack of structure and would waste a lot of time, making very slow progress, even if the advisor set specific goals.
Given these descriptions, I would classify myself as an X2 person. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t do well with large blocks of open time. I also don’t do well when I have something that can easily take up all of my time (like teaching three courses in a semester). In order to be productive in more than one area I need to have something to structure my time but not so much of that thing that I can’t focus on anything else.
My ability to fill up time with other things is related to a lack of time in general. Tenured Radical responds to a reader who asks about a lack of time that is related to constant requests from others:
I don’t have time to go to the gym, or to pack my own lunch — two things I swore I would do this fall to maintain my mental health and not gain back the weight I lost over the summer. I see talks and events come and go and don’t do any of them because I am already scheduled to do something else or I am so tired all I want to do is go home. Worse, I have so much to do that I am not sleeping well and I forget things constantly. Keeping up with my writing? Ha! I have deadlines coming due that I can’t even imagine I will keep.
Her response is that the reader, “Marv,” needs to learn to say no to things that are not in line with his goals and interests:
This leads us to a larger problem, Marv, which is that you have set goals for yourself — go to the gym, eat a nice lunch, get some sleep, write, be responsible to your students, take advantages of the intellectual pleasures a university campus offers — without actually acting to privilege your own interests and desires over the interests of other people. You are trying to please all of the people, all of the time. You are pleasing everyone but yourself.
While I can certainly appreciate the pressures to please others, especially on the tenure track, but this is not my problem. My problem is that I keep saying yes to opportunities that sound interesting without prioritizing my own goals. I pressure myself to get involved. At some point, though, I need to decide what is really important, likely putting research above other interests. I have a feeling that this time will be soon.