Saturday, 26 February 2011

What professors do: Conclusion

Day Six, Saturday

Since I am, unlike Philip, not a workaholic, I am not working on Saturdays. I mean, I did last Saturday, but normally I don't. If I can help it. Philip is young. When I was young, I used to work twelve hours a day seven days a week. I cannot do it anymore. From the five accounts I see that I've worked about fifty hours this week, which should be considered enough, although I cannot beat Phil's sixty-two (but I have only worked five days, not seven like he did). So I'll keep the Sabbath, and tend my garden.

Which does not prevent me from reading and replying to email, reading FB, paying a conference fee, reading page proofs, replying to a journalist's questions (“How can you as a scholar affect the position of children's literature in society?”), and so on. I am so happy when a gang of friends knocks on the door!

What I have learned from this five-day log is how many things we professors do without even noticing. I have a list of urgent things to do which I update regularly and delete finished tasks with delight. On average, it has fifteen to twenty items for the next six months, but these are big items, like writing an article or a chapter, or reviewing a paper, or submitting a conference abstract, or preparing a grant bid. If I were to add all the small things I've done this week it would take me an extra day just to write them down. But all these reports, recommendations, endorsements, meeting papers that we do in passing – they all add up to a huge amount of time and effort.

I have always known that I spend at least two hours every day reading and responding to emails, and I have always wondered what I did with these hours before email. I spend at least an hour a day reading Facebook, and I have only been on Facebook a year and a half, so what did I do with those hours before? That's seven hours a week, almost a whole working day.

During this week, I haven't been able to work on the project which I have taken study leave to do. I haven't worked on it for three weeks, and won't be able to work on it for the coming two weeks because I have other urgent things to attend to.

If I had not been on study leave, I would have, in addition to all this, had at least four hours of teaching (and preparation for these; I have a variable amount of teaching from week to week), at least four hours of face-to-face masters supervision (and many hours of unaccountable draft reading), at least two committee meetings, a project team meeting, a pile of references to write and three more business lunches.

In summary: perhaps we professors are not that idle after all.

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