How to rock your fall semester as a new faculty member.

How do you manage your time and track your research, teaching and service responsibilities? 

When it comes to tenure and promotion expectations as an early career faculty member, research productivity is key. In order to be as productive as possible, putting some thought into your time management strategy is at least as important as checking off the T&P boxes. As academics, we don’t really like to think that the way we work has that much in common with lawyers or other corporate types who think in terms of billable hours. What no one tells you as a graduate student is that that sort of thinking will serve you well as a new faculty member on your path to tenure. 

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1)   TRACK IT

The first order of business is to invest in some sort of time tracking software or app. I use a tool called Officetime to track my time but there are many options available at all different price points. Much like a lawyer keeps track of billable hours, I use this to keep track of every minute of time during the workday. If I spend an hour working on a grant proposal I record it. When a student stops into my office to discuss their research project, I change the timer to record my change in focus. There is no better way to be able to be sure that your time is properly aligned with your distribution of effort (DOE) and tenure requirements than to log your time. On a side note: having an accurate record of your time is incredibly helpful when at the end of your first year on the job you get an email from your Department Chair with a spreadsheet attachment that asks for you to record the amount of time you have spent mentoring each of your individual trainees. I am pretty certain that if you just “guess-timate” you are likely underestimating the time you have invested in your graduate and postdoctoral trainees.   

2)   PLAN IT

The second tool that I have been using for the past 2-years to improve my overall research productivity while maintaining a better boundary between work and family time is Asana. I usually sit at around 10 graduate students and postdocs for whom I am the primary supervisor. Our group at any given time is working on many different projects and we have been using Asana to coordinate and communicate. We are using the free version and it has been a fantastic way to help keep my email box a bit less cluttered because more of our team communication is moved to Asana. My graduate students like it because they can assign tasks that require my attention with a “required by” date and it automatically appears on my Asana to-do list. This way they can also see where their task is in my (usually very large) queue. It is a great way to be sure that I am holding up my end of our mentoring agreement which is that I will provide timely feedback. Being strategic about how you spend your time pre-tenure is key and the first order of business is to find a strategy that works for you and to (actually) keep track of your time. 

Do you have specific strategies for managing all of your different academic tasks and time? 

This post was not sponsored by Asana or Officetime. All thoughts are my own.