For those who are getting started on the tenure track, developing good habits from the beginning can be crucial.
I’ve identified a handful of habits that have served me during my TT years – and beyond. These habits come in addition to those I mentioned earlier in my posts on good habits to develop during the PhD and the post-doc years.
- Develop systems to keep track of various projects: During your PhD and post-doc, you typically focus on one project at a time. During the TT years, you will find that you are juggling multiple projects and potentially multiple PhD candidates as well. Find a system in terms of architecture of folders and filing system for paper files that works for you. I started using a different notebook per project and per PhD candidate, and this approach is working well for me so far.
- Find a balanced schedule: Teaching, research, writing, service, admin, and other responsibilities all compete for your time and attention. It is difficult to say no to increasing service and admin demands, so you need to find a way to put a lid on these. There are various ways to do so. The first one is by looking at your contract and the % of time you are hired for to dedicate on these different categories, and comparing these values to how you actually spend your time (by tracking your time for a week, for example). The second option is by developing a weekly template, to make sure you get to put in the time to work on your important but not urgent tasks, such as writing papers. The third option is to put limits to your service by for example limiting yourself to reviewing two papers per month, or three papers per paper that you publish.
- Think in terms of your values, mission and vision: Now is a good time to imagine yourself down the road, when you have your tenure. What will you be know for? Try to identify your research line in a few words, and craft your work in such a way that it aligns with this research line. At a deeper level, identify your core values, and make sure these are reflected in what you do. Write your mission statement: why do you care about your research line? Then, draft a vision statement for your tenure track years, combining your mission, values, and what you hope to achieve. Revisit your vision frequently to see if you are working on what makes your heart sing.
- Save time for relationships: The tenure track years are busy (and, take it from me, it stays busy afterwards too). It’s easy to get bogged down by work and hide away in your office. However, relationships with others in academia are very important. So, carve out the time to grab coffee with a colleague, stop for a chat with an admin in the hallway, and participate in the social events (which, I have experienced, is sometimes more of a difficulty for those of us who also have small children).
- Inbox zero? To Inbox Zero or not to Inbox Zero, that’s the question. I’m a fan of Inbox zero, and storing away emails in the respective folders of my Dropbox is part of my filing and archiving system. By all means, it’s good to spend some time during the TT years to figure out how you will deal with the neverending flood of emails. Develop mailbox rules, folder systems, and unsubscribe more than you think is good for you now before you reach a point of complete overload.
For those of you on the TT or past the TT: which habits have helped you combine your tasks?