An Extreme Approach to Faculty Time Management

Via Invisible Adjunct comes the tale of Prof. David Lester's extreme approach to managing the conflicting demands on a professor's time that get in the way of writing.

I suppose the guy is a nut, and there's no doubt that if everyone was like this it would be a Bad Thing, but I will confess that as I read it, I could see how a person could be driven to it. Certainly, I would go to fewer faculty meetings if I could square it with my conscience. Or with my live-in conscience, the spouse who is also a colleague.

I have made some decisions over the course of my career that have allowed me to be productive, yet not feel overwhelmed.

I went to the first graduation ceremony at the college in 1973, but I have never attended one since. I have not attended a faculty meeting since 1972. I found that I liked my colleagues much better if I did not listen to their silly comments in such meetings. I rarely go to division meetings (I belong to the college's division of social and behavioral sciences), but I do try to make most meetings of the psychology program.

I used to lunch with colleagues, but I found that their continual complaints about the administration and the students soured my attitude toward the college. I switched to lunching with students for a while (faculty members and students share the same cafeteria at my college), and some became good friends of my wife's and mine. (Our annual Super Bowl party rotates between our house and that of one of my students and her husband.)

These days, I eat in my office and check the sports news online. For many years, I had my name removed from the faculty e-mail list so that I had no awareness of what activities were taking place at the college — I missed the president's Christmas party on several occasions because of that — nor what issues were making the faculty and staff members angry. Now I have had myself placed back on the e-mail list, but I direct all collegewide messages to a folder that I rarely peruse.

I do not pick up the telephone in my office, and my voice-mail message informs callers that I do not check for telephone messages. Callers are told to e-mail me.

I have avoided as much college service as I can in recent years so that I can concentrate on my scholarly work. Our pay raises are negotiated by a union and do not depend upon evaluations by a dean or other administrator. However, I have received merit awards in the past on the two occasions on which they were possible.

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