09 April 2015

My new work week

For several unbloggable reasons, I have spent very close to working a traditional 40 hour work week the last few months. This is a pretty substantial cut for me.

And this is the point where everyone wants me to say, “And I’m feeling much better now!”

A lot of people have written about the cult of business in academia, and how there are a lot of bad examples of overwork. A few years ago, one person (Nobel prize winner, I think) talked about how some of his best ideas he got from noodling around in the lab... on Sunday afternoons. He copped it for setting a bad example for unrealistic work expectations. Not everyone can or should spend weekends in the lab.

My feelings about moving to a more “9 to 5” schedule are not that simple.

On the one hand, if I’m honest, I did used to feel that there was nothing in my life but work. That wasn’t very pleasant.

Now, there is more to my life than work, and that’s good. But now I feel crummy about the work I do get done. I’m constantly aware of how many tasks need doing. I’m behind on grading, I’m behind on page proofs, I’m behind on administration, I’m behind on revising manuscripts... and I hate that feeling.

(Oh, and my office is a disaster area.)

Fortunately, this feeling of not getting it done isn’t showing in my productivity on paper yet. I’ve had one paper published that year, pre-prints are out for a second, and several contributions for books are in the pipeline for later this year. But I was lucky: I had a lot of projects that had a very long, slow, fuse that are just finally coming out after long delays.

And the things that are suffering are things that I like doing, that make me feel like an academic contributing to the dialogue. It feels so good when I get to blog now. I want to do more. I’m turning down students interesting in research projects, because I know I don’t have the time to give them the attention they deserve. I’ve had to cut myself off a lot in an effort to keep myself focused on the backlog.

I think I may need some time that isn’t the daily 9 to 5 grind of academia (teaching and meetings and writing) but that is still related to it. Maybe that guy was on to something with Sunday afternoons in the lab. Maybe just occasionally.

1 comment:

Bjoern Brembs said...

I know precisely how you feel! When our daughter was born, I went down from 60 to 50 hours and now I'm behind on everything, it takes forever to get anything done and it feels like I never have time to really thoroughly do anything. It sucks. I had such a great week when my family had taken a one week vacation without me - but towards the end of the week, something was missing. Weird, isn't it?