Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Time management in Academia: Balancing teaching and research

Spring 2014 is my first semester in which I have a full course load to teach - and from now on, I'll (most likely) be teaching 3 courses in Spring and 3 courses in Fall. This semester. I'm teaching 3 new courses - courses that I'm developing from scratch for the students at USFQ.

As we saw earlier, it takes about 4 hours to prepare an hour's worth of lecture. Since I'll be teaching 9 hours a week, that puts me already at 45 hours a week (1 hour teaching + 4 hours preparing => and this 9 times a week). Add in some time for grading, and regular admin stuff, and replying emails, and you can imagine that my time is running out quickly.

And all of that is just teaching - what truly matters, on the tenure-track, in my field, for my institution and for my overall career, are my publications. I made an ambitious schedule for churning out a large number of journal papers based on the novel elements in my dissertation (and the massive amount of test data that we produced), but I'm already experiencing that, even though everything is written in my dissertation, it takes more time to write the papers.

With a number of papers in the submission process as well, I forgot to keep time and space in my planning to deal with the comments of the reviewers. Overall, I'm now slowing down from initially wanting to submit a paper per month of 1,5 months to a paper per 2 or 3 months.

Nonetheless, given my part-time appointment in Delft, I want to carve out at least 10 hours per week for research and writing. Ideally, I'd love to up that number to at least 20 hours per week, but I'm afraid that will be hard in my first semester.

As I was scratching my head, and wondering how to fit teaching and research into my schedule (and still find time to eat, play music, play with my cat, given some attention to my husband, exercise, meditate, read for pleasure, sleep at least 8 hours per night, maintain this blog and explore this country), I turned to Twitter for advice. You can find the Storify of the tweets at the bottom of this post.

The main take home message from the tweets was to plan time for writing. This advice closely corresponds to the idea of making the weekly template, as I saw earlier on the blogs of Tanya Golash-Boza and Raul Pacheco-Vega.

As such, I made a weekly template for myself. Over time, I'm planning to change this template in line with ideas from Alisa Vitti's monthly cyclic approach (as outlined in her book WomanCode) and Laura Vanderkam's 168 hours mathematics (see 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think). I'm also planning some trials of writing first thing in the morning, from 6am to 8am, as well as going to the gym first thing in the morning.

Taking into account my previous reservations, and highlighting that this schedule is in its experimental face, I'm here sharing my current weekly template.


  1. I was JUST getting the Education Development Centre at my university to organize a "graduate students who are teaching for the first time" event to talk about these kind of stuff :)
    I take a lot longer to prep my course than 4:1, and I'm not even grading. I'm getting better though - it took me less time to prep last week than it did the week before. My workdays are also much shorter than yours. I started with "mornings are for research and afternoons/evenings are for teaching prep", but when I have a class the next day I can't stop thinking about the things I need to get done and then I can't concentrate. Now I dedicate one day a week to writing/research, and at least last week it worked out well :)

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience! I'm still moving around things in my schedule, trying to find out how I can get everything done. Since I teach every day, it gets a little harder to block entire days for teaching or research, but on the other hand, I'm not used to work in smaller chunks of time on things...

  2. Thanks for sharing your schedule. It is very helpful to see how a successful academic allocates time!

    1. Thank you! It's a work in progress, though... first semester in new job, and still figuring things out

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