Interesting post by Radhika Nagpal of Harvard a couple of days ago, on treating the pre-tenure days like a post doc and trying to find balance in the academic life.  This is a challenge for me.  I tend to be a workaholic and have trouble saying no to new projects or student requests. Its also a challenge with my teaching, as I always want to update or change my classes and add new components (see my last post about incorporating a murder mystery into my class), all of which take up more time.  Nagpal’s ideas about setting quotas for certain things such as travel, committees, and hard projects are sound ones, and advice worth taking.  Of course, she also advocates against taking advice, so I may be in a bit of a bind.


2 Replies to “Balance”

  1. I have only recently begun figuring this stuff out (is it a function of being in one’s forties?). A few reactions to Radhika Nagpal’s essay:

    1) I have never really understood the “working 80 hours (or 60, or 56) per week” meme. Yes, I do not have a 9-5 job; I do work-related tasks in the evenings, on weekends, etc. But I choose to do these tasks at those times, and I also, like today, decide to spend the morning completing some errands on foot. Maybe sometimes I put in long stretches that total a 50 or 60 hour week. But there are other weeks where I’m probably working 30.

    2) I think the “feel good” email folder is brilliant.

    3) So much of academia is based on a psychology of recognition, and that recognition either never comes or is quite underwhelming when it does. A recent epiphany was to realize that working in the expectation of recognition that never comes puts one in a soul-sucking pit of Hell. So, like Dr. Nagpal writes, it’s a lot healthier to focus on the parts of work that one enjoys and to establish limits so that one doesn’t get overwhelmed by what one doesn’t enjoy. This might mean saying “no” more frequently, but in 10,000 years, the fact that you declined to participate in a committee that has no defined end product is not going to matter.

    1. The ‘feel good’ folder I’ve been doing for a long time, although I rarely pull it out to look at it. I call it my ‘kudos’ folder and I keep a hard copy (sometimes I get handwritten notes from students) and an email folder.

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