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How do I spend my time?

Posted by Arjendu on June 9, 2008

School’s out. That is, classes are done, grades are due shortly, commencement is this Saturday, and we’re chilling out on vacation. Right? Hah.

There is a discernible difference in how term time goes compared to how the summer or breaks go, but work continues. Mostly for my own edification (one reason I started this blog was to keep track of where I was spending my energies so I could manage things better), here’s my estimate of where time went this particular term:

When I was teaching 3 courses (and the senior integrative exercise or ‘comps‘): 33 — 36 hours a week on teaching (contact, prep, and grading) — but only on average. Grading makes that fluctuate tremendously. This dropped hugely when I went down to 1 course for the second half of the term (we teach 6 courses a year, 2 during every 10-week term at Carleton; my schedule split Spring Term into an insane half and a relaxed half by virtue of our 5-week courses).

College-and-department-related administration and engagement (this includes advising, college-wide committees, departmental responsibilities including searches for visiting faculty, etc, signing off on various expense reports and logs that I have to verify, lunch meetings devoted to pedagogy or presentations by colleagues on their scholarship, for example, semi-formal socializing with visitors, with students, staff, and colleagues): 4 -8 hours a week.

CISMI-related administration issues: 2 – 10 hours a week. This fluctuates hugely, again, depending on whether a proposal or reporting deadline is headed down the pipeline or not, for example.


The very least I do every week, no matter how badly I am drowning: scan the daily abstracts from (restricting myself to quant-ph and nlin, though I do subscribe to cond-mat as well, but that last is a true high-level scan more at the level of paper titles than abstracts, honestly). I also get the Table of Contents emailed to me from PRL (weekly), PRA, and PRE (monthly), Physica A and D, and a bunch of IOP journals (J. Phys. A., J. Phys. B, Nonlinearity) as well as Nature and Science. I would say I look at the text of 10 papers a week beyond the abstracts, and download and print a smaller subset. So let’s say that’s another 3-5 hours or so weekly just staying abreast/staying afloat of what’s current. Oh, and reading some physics blogs (I do it through Jacques Distler’s Planet Musings, mostly). Another hour or two meeting with research students. An average of an hour a week on being a Referee (big fluctuations on that, of course).

You can do the addition as well as I do. ‘Research’ the way I understood it as a graduate student and post-doc: Discussions with collaborators, or an analytical calculation, or coding something for the computer, or running simulations, or analyzing the runs, or writing (I once heard Sir Michael Berry of ‘Berry’s phase’ fame give a talk at UT-Austin, dressed in one of his trademark tie-dye shirts, looking for all the world like a Deadhead, and someone asked him if he’d written up the result he was talking about, and he said, ‘Well, I’ve written it down, but I haven’t written it up’. I liked that quick way of summarizing the difference between knowing something well enough for yourself versus the attempt to frame it more formally for an audience), or rebutting a referee, or whatever, came above and beyond the standard 40 hours a week during those insane first five weeks of Spring Term. And honestly, during a typical 2-course term as well.

It’s a good thing I love my job so much.

(And yeah, some time spent on this blog as well. That there are periods of dead silence here may not be that surprising, then, eh?)


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