September 10, 2006

Finding time to write is the biggest problem

I just checked the poll I ran a couple of weeks ago. I asked what you dreaded the most about the upcoming semester. Almost 60 have voted. "Not enough time to write" came in first by a landslide. More than 50% chose that alternative over "teaching prep," "meetings," "dealing with students," "grading," and "job applications."

So what to do? Well, for a start, why not sign up for my 2-session teleclass, "Start the Semester 'Write?'"

Over 20 people have signed up so far, and some have registered for the webpage where we're going to log our daily progress. They have checklists, schedule forms and graphs for taking control of the writing progress. And on Tuesday we're going to get started! So check it out and sign up now!

September 4, 2006

Why professors work so hard

An interesting article on the second page of the Washington Post today:

"In Today's Rat Race, the Most Overworked Win"

Most pertinent to professors is the following section:

Some economists, sociologists and psychologists say the paradox arises because of the changing nature of the workplace. In a growing number of professions, especially those that involve thinking and social skills, managers and owners find it difficult to measure the day-to-day performance of employees.

When employees make tangible products, it is easy to measure performance based on the quality of the products. But when work is intangible and involves aesthetics, judgment or social networking, employers do not have easy ways of measuring how important such activity is to the bottom line, Cornell sociologist Marin E. Clarkberg said.

"When you have an undefinable product, there is a temptation to measure output in terms of hours," she said. "In law and a lot of amorphous professions, when you are trying to win a case or being a professor, you are doing things like thinking. It's not like little widgets you produce which you can count."

When you combine this tendency to measure value by counting work hours with the other tendency that is rampant in academics -- insecurity -- it's a recipe for disaster. Everyone watches everyone else, feels like they're not doing enough, and works more.

Unfortunately, the reality for the "intangible" professions that involve lots of thinking, is that it's better to work smarter, not harder. In fact, long hours tend to fry the brain and cause you to do too much useless activity.

When will the insanity stop?!