July 29, 2008

Do you have time to think?

If you race around all day like a chicken with your head cut off, running from one task to another without time to think, you may be paying a price, according to some experts. This article from BBC news looks at how setting aside time to think can help you feel better and be more productive. Some food for thought as you start contemplating the upcoming semester. Just don't think about eating chicken!

July 13, 2008

Death by tenure track

A 45- year old Japanese chief engineer working for Toyota had worked "nights and weekends and often traveled abroad" for six months. When he died of heart failure, a local Japanese government agency ruled that his death had been caused by overwork, reports an article today in the Washington Post. Apparently death caused by working too much has become so common in Japan that they have a word for it -- karoshi.

The thing is, this description -- working nights and weekends and often traveling abroad -- reminded me of so many of the professors I talk to. Could it be that academia is quietly killing tenure-track professors?

I've never heard of any statistics that indicate that academics go to an early grave. I do see a lot of people, especially pre-tenure, who suffer from what are probably stress-induced illnesses.

Perhaps there is no increased incidence of karoshi in academia because the tenure track has an ending. Your body says, "Hang in there; there is hope; this will end." Or maybe the relative break that the summer semesters provide allows the body to recover.

Either way, the fact that it is generally accepted in Japan that overwork can kill you provides a cautionary tale. Work too much, for too long, at your own peril. Learn how to balance your life, so karoshi won't get you.

July 4, 2008

Procrastination is...

Procrastinate (and recognize yourself) by watching this fantastic animation.

July 3, 2008

What's your crap quotient?

I just got off the phone with a wise and experienced tenured professor client who I'm coaching. She recounted some advice that one of her mentors had given her long ago. This person had been an extremely prolific writer with many publications.

She said, "Your crap quotient is too low."

What did she mean by this? One way to look at it is this: If every article you send out is accepted for publication, it probably means that you could have sent out more. In order to learn how to write better, you need to write more. In order to improve your research and writing, you need feedback. Even article rejections help you learn. You might find out what kind of article is or isn't appropriate for that journal. You might get suggestions from reviewers, that as much as you hate them, are helpful for improving the article.

If you're holding on to your work until it's perfect, then you're not publishing as much as you might, and you're probably holding yourself back in other ways. Because creative ideas come from regular writing, there's a good chance that you're not as creative, along with not being as productive as you might have been.

I find that many of the professors I work with have a much lower opinion of their own work than everyone else does. If you're the kind of person that tends to be too self-critical, consider releasing more of your work into the world as soon as possible. You'll find out sooner whether you're on the right path or not, you'll improve your work, and you'll be freed up to write some high-quality work.

Do you hold on to your work too long, fearing that it's crap? Take this wise professor's advice, and increase your crap quotient.