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PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: How to find time for reading when you have a faculty position

This post is part of the series PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: posts written for the Dutch academic career network AcademicTransfer, your go-to resource for all research positions in the Netherlands.

These posts are sponsored by AcademicTransfer, and tailored to those of you interested in pursuing a research position in the Netherlands.

If these posts raise your interest in working as a researcher in the Netherlands, even better – and feel free to fire away any questions you might have on this topic!

During your PhD, you read a lot – or at least, you’ve read what you need to read to be able to write your literature review. Then, you get a faculty position, and before you know, you are juggling writing proposals, carrying out new research, writing the papers from your PhD, teaching, supervising students, service tasks and much more. It’s easy to let reading slip to the side when you have a faculty position.

Here are a few different approaches to find time for reading:

1. Schedule it
To make sure you stay up to date, reading consistently is important. The best way to make sure you make time for reading, is to put it on your calendar. Set aside two blocks of time of 1,5 hours during the week to read up on the literature in your field. Remember that reading sparks creativity – you may come up with your next proposal idea by reading something new. This approach works very well when you use a weekly template.

2. Subscribe to print journals
If you receive a print journal in the mail, you will at least flip through it. And then maybe you will read something that catches your attention, before you place the journal on your shelves.

3. Set an alert for digital journals
If you don’t want to start accumulating paper in your office, or if the journal of your choice is only digital, subscribe to a newsletter so that you receive a notification when new articles are available. Skim the headlines, click on the interesting ones, download the articles, and read them quickly before deleting the email.

4. Binge read for a project
If you need to start a new topic, a bit of binging is OK. I used to caution against binging at all times, but I’ve seen for myself that sometimes it is necessary to dive into a new project – especially for short-term projects in a field not directly related to yours. Better set aside a few big chunks of time (say, blocks of 3 hours every day, since I don’t think anybody can read an entire day) and get up to speed.

5. Write a review paper
If you really want to delve into the literature on a new topic, challenge yourself to write a review article. So far, I’ve published a review article on shear in slabs, fatigue in concrete under compression, load testing of bridges, and shear in steel fiber reinforced concrete. Reviews are not a waste of time – they are the best way to go really deep into the topic.

6. Review papers and serve as editor
A lot of my reading these days is in the form of reviewing papers or as journal editor. As a reviewer, I read deeply and critically, so it certainly improves my reading and understanding of a topic. As an editor, I read quickly to see if the work fulfills the requirements to be sent to review, and then together with the review reports to make an editorial decision.

7. Join a challenge

Join a #365papers challenge to motivate yourself to read a paper every day
. While I think 365 days may be too much (you need your holidays too, it may be motivating to join an challenge, and it can be helpful to build the habit of reading daily or at least a few times a week.

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