Struggling to keep up? Six coping strategies

By Joern Fischer

Academic lives are busy, and those in early career-stage (e.g. tenure track) are often hit hardest. Following from a discussion I had earlier today, I thought I’d share my favourite coping strategies more broadly. (Despite these strategies, which I do believe in, I still regularly feel rather unsure whether I am in fact coping…)

1. Say no to lots of “opportunities”. Many things that are “opportunities” are in fact a waste of time. It’s pointless to be involved in everything.

2. Try to be efficient rather than work long hours. People differ in their efficiencies by hundreds of percent, but the most you can do is work 16 hours instead of 8: that’s if you’re willing to double your hours. Doubling efficiency is relatively a lot easier than doubling your work hours!

3. Minimise stupid meetings. Some meetings are important, but many take forever and go nowhere. Minimise your engagement in time-wasting activities of that sort. Consider chairing such meetings to get them out of your life faster, if you must attend them.

4. Invest time when it matters. For example, if you’re advising more junior academics (students, for example), make sure you put lots of time into helping them at strategic points: for example, early on when planning a project, or when there are early signs that someone is not making progress or is having a hard time. Planning things well from the beginning is way more time-saving than trying to fix them later on.

5. Use times when little is going on not only to catch up, but also to chill out. See a friend. Go for a walk. Use the time to recover, reflect and re-focus, so that you’re able to focus and be efficient when needed again.

6. Do few things well. Many academics seem to try to have a finger in every research pie available. This makes for a busy and networked life, but quite possibly neither for the best research nor for the happiest lives. An alternative (K-selected…) strategy is to try to do few things well.

Not exactly ground-breaking insights here, but perhaps of some use, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on this.

2 thoughts on “Struggling to keep up? Six coping strategies

  1. Pingback: Dbytes #111 (30 July 2013) | Dbytes

  2. Pingback: Recommended Reading | July 2013 | Cindy E Hauser

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