Ever feel like most time management advice is, well, crap? So do Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber, authors of a recent article in the Chronicle with the provocative title “Take Your Time: The corporate university steals it–let’s grab it back.”
Aghast at books that recommend reserving 12 hours on Sundays(!) for grading and class prep while keeping Saturdays open for research, they say, “The fact that we need to give ourselves permission to eat, bathe, and pay bills”–another dictum from another book on time management for academics–“reflects our loss of balance in the current university climate.” Indeed, time management books are often contradictory, stating that working at an optimal level requires time for exercise, sleep, eating well, and socialization, but the work schedules suggested are prohibitive of all these things.
They also note that managing one’s time can cause more anxiety rather than less: “Even the most well-intentioned time-management plans plug us into the wrong kind of time: scheduled time, which tends to exacerbate the feelings of fragmentation that result from juggling teaching, research, administration, student emails, and so on. The sense that there is never enough time produces panic, a feverish sense of being always behind.”
So in the article and their new book, The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy, they advocate a re-emphasis on community and social support to challenge the “corporate university” and its constant drumbeat of producing more in less time, shedding the fragmentation that shatters focus and fractures relationships. While time management texts often “advise against spending time ‘just’ talking with colleagues,” how many collaborations and great ideas have come from spontaneous hallway chats? How can a department–a university, even–flourish as an agora of ideas with gaping holes in its social fabric?
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t hustle to get that grant done or that paper submitted. Obviously, these things are important. But it’s also wise to consider how much hustle you can realistically handle before burnout sets in, and free some of your time from its overly managed state.