Archive for the 'time management' category

Unpaid Work

It’s summer! I can hardly believe it – for the first time in 20 years I have an actual summer vacation with no job to do, until I teach again this fall! Only… that’s not really true at all. I am practically working full-time, doing work I’m not technically paid to do. There are two sides of this that I have different degrees of tolerance for.

 

workoutside httpwww.mediamoxye.comhow-to-take-your-work-on-the-road-this-summer

Totally not how I work in the summer… source: httpwww.mediamoxye.comhow-to-take-your-work-on-the-road-this-summer

 

First, I am in the place that virtually every scientist finds themselves after a recent (and often not-so-recent) job change. I have unfinished business from my last job, i.e. manuscripts to write. I will not get paid for that job again, but I am obligated to do these tasks. The common reasons we find ourselves in this position are:

  • I put a lot of work into this project that didn’t get quite completed/written before I started my new job, and I want to maintain my ownership/get top authorship – it will benefit me and my career to do this, and/or I want to do it.

OR

  • I promised my old boss I would do this.

In this case, I am fully in the last category – I didn’t even conduct the original research experiments, just did some analysis and started writing the papers, I have very little feeling of ownership or desire to participate, and there is no real way that these papers could make a difference in my career. But I promised. As you can imagine, that makes the unpaid aspect all the more irksome. But this is the culture of research that is unlikely to change because of the way we jump from job to job quickly, relative to the pace of research, early in our careers.

I’m trying to devote about 8 hours per week this summer to finishing up those projects from my last job. And If I can finish them up, then I think I will be truly done with research at that point.

Second, I am doing work that is technically unpaid for my current job, which is a 9-month contract position. I have a complicated situation involving planned but unofficial family leave this fall (since I haven’t worked there long enough to have ‘earned’ it), during my regular working year. My current work is an attempt to prepare for this leave ahead of time, working with Teaching Assistants, testing out labs, and revising course syllabi, assignments, and schedules to work with my absences. But I am certain that other instructors who are unpaid for the summers do plenty of prep work for their courses as well – I know I would: how could one, especially with new course preps, really only start 1 week before the start of the term as specified in our contract? And that leads to my reasons for doing work for this job off the clock:

  • I want to put in the time to develop quality teaching plans, and to make it easier for myself in the fall.

AND

  • I like doing it!

So in a sense, whether I’m getting paid doesn’t really factor in at this point. In addition, not getting paid for this doesn’t sting as much since I’m kind of making up time I’ll be out on leave. But it is still on my mind, especially since this is following my first year, where I had so much initial work to put into teaching courses for the first time that I was working every minute I wasn’t with my kid or sleeping (okay, I did have one date night in that year, but…!). This isn’t unique to science, or even academia, but aspects of the culture here are relatively unique.

One of the perks of academic work is that most of us don’t have to account for our hours or whereabouts or sometimes even vacations. The flexibility to make daytime appointments or go pick up a sick kid or not have to schedule time off is fantastic. But it’s all dependent on being able to get the work done – whether that’s specific projects in the lab, article publications, grants funded, lectures given, or classes taught, the ‘product’, not the time, is what matters to keep the lights turned on. And that’s what I signed up for – I agreed to teach 4 classes per term, for a certain salary and that’s what I have to do, regardless of any assumptions of a 40 hour work week. But I am confident my hours will be much closer to that 40 hour mark after this first year, and I will not get myself into so much unpaid summer work again. But I also agreed to write these manuscripts for my previous lab, so that’s what I’m going to do. Unless the new person in lab wants to write them, since they could actually help her, while she gets paid to do it!

Wish me luck, and you’ll hear from me this fall about how smoothly things go for my leave time based on this preparation!

No responses yet

Impact

Feb 10 2018 Published by under efficiency, time management

One day, when my son was two or three, he did not want to put on his shoes. This is not unusual for a two-year-old, of course. But on this day he didn’t cry about it or throw a fit, he made up a song. His song went, “I don’t want to waaaaaste my time, I don’t want to waaaaaste my time, putting on shooooes today, putting on shooooes today.”

I’m sure he has forgotten this incident and this song, but I have not. I sing this little tune to myself sometimes. It is catchy and the sentiment rings true to me. It turns out I, too, hate to waste time.

Something I’m struggling with right now is using I devote to volunteering most efficiently. There is so much to do in this world and I have such limited time. I really want to make the maximal impact that my time and abilities allow.

I started volunteering with an organization last winter. Like many people, after the election I felt a need to get involved. There was a flood of new volunteers, so while there were many volunteers, the group felt very disorganized. They were not used to having so many hands, and so probably did not make the best use of the hands they suddenly had available. This year, so far, there is more thought and planning into what areas we can have impact. I really enjoy the planning and the idea that the time I put in will be put to better use. The planning itself does take time, but hopefully will be worth it.

I also volunteer with my local women in science group. It is a great grass roots group, entirely run by volunteers and started by student and postdocs. I am the outreach chair, and as such I organize volunteers and plan events to empower girls in science. Here, I am the organizer rather than the volunteer being told what to do. In this situation, I have to ask myself, how do I maximize my time and my volunteers time? I feel the need to plan most efficiently, but sometimes that leads to mistakes that then waste time.

I also think about whether my efforts are duplicating those of others. Other groups do science outreach with kids. What am I adding that is different enough to be worth it? If I am not doing something different, of course my efforts are not a complete waste. However, my time might be better spent volunteering for those other groups rather than organizing something myself.

Do you volunteer? Do you organize volunteers? How do you make an impact or deal with the struggle of limited time?

No responses yet