Pre-tenure Advice: Blocking out time for your research

As part of the Carnival that Prof-like Substance is organizing on Pre-tenure advice, I thought I’d throw in a piece of advice that anyone who asks me this question gets from me. Here it is:

Create a calendar and block out time for you.

Sounds simple, and honestly a little stupid, but it’s the best advice I can give. Why?

When you start your job, or a semester, your calendar is empty. You have oodles and oodles of time for you to work on your science. However, you will quickly find that there are a lot of demands on your time. Students want meetings. Faculty want meetings. Collaborators want meetings. Administrators want meetings. You name a type of person (and some you suspect might not be people at all) and they will want you to do something for them. Many of these things will seem quick. The most dangerous words are “This will only take 5 minutes” (It won’t. I promise you, it never does). Next thing you know you have a week chopped up into meetings with only 15 minutes here or there of ‘free time’. That’s now the free time you have to do all that science you were planning on. Trust me, in the 15 minutes you’ll have between meetings and things you have to do to prepare for meetings, you won’t feel like working on your science.

This is where the calendar comes in. Schedule blocks of time during each week for research. Once on your calendar, these blocks are sacrosanct. You wouldn’t cancel that meeting with the Department Chair to meet with Fred down the hall to talk about the seminar committee. Your research is in many ways more important for your future than the Department Chair, so don’t cancel on it.

Why do you need the calendar? Why can’t you just tell yourself that every Monday morning you will focus on research? Because it doesn’t work. When someone comes and asks for a meeting and you think about your week, Monday morning will be ‘free’ in your head. The easiest thing in the world is to fill that ’empty’ slot and now you’ve just broken up your research time into useless chunks. (Trust me, I’ve been there). On the other hand, if that time is already blocked out on your calendar as ‘busy’ then it’s a reminder that you have something you need to be doing during that time.

As an ancillary note, blocking out time for you and your mental health is also important. Exercise important for keeping you sane? Need time for activities with friends or you go ballistic? Whatever you need to keep you sane and happy, make sure you schedule time for it. Because when you’re insane, your work is never as good as you think it is. Trust me on this.

3 Comments on “Pre-tenure Advice: Blocking out time for your research

  1. Pingback: Pre-tenure Blog Carnival Wrap up! | Prof-Like Substance

  2. I’m now not positive where you’re getting your info, however great
    topic. I must spend some time finding out more or figuring out more.
    Thanks for great information I used to be searching
    for this info for my mission.

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