Responding to things that come in
Academics’ workload is extremely varied. While on study leave, certain duties are relieved (teaching and admin) but others remain, and unexpected tasks crop up from time to time while on leave. Being responsive and flexible is part and parcel of what we do as academics, and taking a judgement call about what to deal with straight away, what to schedule for a later time, and what to pass on or ignore typifies the perennial balancing act of academia (whether or not we are on study leave).
This week started off very research-focused, and I had anticipated an intensive research-only week. I enjoyed a full research day working in the British Library – the email was off, and I was able to concentrate fully on an article edit (morning) and book project research (afternoon). But things quickly changed for the rest of the week, and I had to take a judgement call about responding to what came in:
1. Student references Two requests for references came in. This is a hidden area of academics’ workload; at certain times of the year, we can be inundated with requests from students applying for Master’s programmes, PGCE programmes, or graduate jobs. I usually always say ‘yes’ when I can because I think it is important for my students’ careers. But as each reference takes at least 45 minutes to complete, it can become a burden on workload management. For me this week, I got to them pretty much straightaway as deadlines were looming, but it did mean I had to put back finishing the article edit.
2. Article proofs Proofs for an article on Rimbaud came in. To be honest, I’d forgotten that I hadn’t yet been sent the typeset proofs. As is typical of the academic publishing process, you rarely get warning of when proofs will come your way. So proofing wasn’t factored into my Study Leave Planner for the week. Whilst it is tempting to put off the proofing (as it is a distraction from the article on Gautier I’m currently drafting), if you don’t do your proofs quickly, you simply delay publication. So another day was spent on proofing the Rimbaud piece, pushing my Gautier article edit back yet again.
What do these examples tell us? Responding to things that crop up is important. But the current research always suffers as a result. If we say yes to everything that comes in, the research will never get done. And making the judgement call is one of the biggest challenges of our job.