An article by Rachel Toor in this week’s Chronicle raises some interesting questions about how academics early on in their career manage their time. Toor argues that increasingly people take on far too much work in order to build their CV or please their bosses and that, in fact, their long term career (and sanity!) will suffer because of this. You can read the full article here.
I think many of us know the feeling of not having enough hours in the day, of having to ‘juggle’ commitments and perhaps even of having to choose which deadline to meet. For those who want to advance their career, work is inevitably busy and high pressured in any arena. Academics suffer from this workplace pressure too, but this can be alleviated by learning to manage your time efficiently and by learning how to say ‘no’.
If you say ‘yes’ to everything that you are asked or begged to do, then something will have to suffer. It might mean that your big projects, the new book for example, takes years longer than you had hoped. So you have to prioritise. Of course, ask yourself which of the many requests you get in your working day will help you develop your CV and win support from your bosses. But also think about your longer term goals. Chances are you will have to sacrifice something in order to complete that book.
Toor argues that managers play on people’s innate desire to please and they use flattery to find a willing candidate for a particular task. As a conscientious person, it is very difficult to fight the urge to help everyone who comes to you with a problem, but you have to protect yourself and your time. Of course it is important to get the balance right. We all have colleagues for whom the balance isn’t there: they are too selfish with their time and are rightly criticised for it. But next time someone asks you to do a task and you feel pleased but mildly panicked at the thought of fitting it into your schedule, try to employ that little word in your defence: ‘no’!