(Academic) New Years Resolutions

I’ve always thought of September as the start of the new year, probably because I’ve spent the better part of my life in school and thus my life flows more with the academic calendar than the actual calendar.  Which means that when it comes to resolutions, I tend to make them in September rather than in January.  Now that the summer is officially over (sob), it’s time to make some resolutions for the year.

I’m going up for tenure this year, which means I’m in a weird state of limbo.  After Friday, there will be nothing, absolutely nothing, I can do to influence my fate anymore:  it will be totally out of my hands until the decision comes down in December.  And it’s hard to be definitive about anything from a state of limbo.  Plus, I’m in a place where I actually feel comfortable with where I am professionally:  my research and teaching are pretty self-sustaining right now, and there’s nothing specific I want to or need to accomplish, so I’m happy to sort of let those proceed along without interference and let them take me where they will.

Which frees me up to think more holistically about how I work.  Not only “what do I do”, but “how much time and energy do I devote to work as opposed to other parts of my life” and “how effectively do I spend my work time” and “am I working in a way that allows me to enjoy and spend time on the other aspects of my life too”.  Given that I end every school year stressed out and burned out, and that I’ve let my job literally make me sick, I’d have to say that I’m probably not working effectively or sustainably.  Admittedly, it’s hard at a place like Carleton, where there are so many demands on our limited time and where everything is jammed into intense 10 week periods.  But what I’m doing now is clearly not working.

So this year I have one resolution:  To find the sweet spot in my own life that allows me to work productively and sustainably.  To figure out how to work effectively and efficiently and to make the time for my family and for taking care of myself.  To not end the term, or the school year, in a frenzied and frazzled state, but rather to work calmly, consistently and productively.  To find a balance that makes me happy and fulfilled, but still allows me to get my job done to my satisfaction.

It’s not going to be easy, and will require a lot of self-reflection and probably some serious examination of priorities.  But I know that for the sake of my sanity, I need to do this, and do it now.  So I’m committing to taking the time to put in the necessary work, even if it means letting a few other things slide.

What are your resolutions for the new school year?

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2 thoughts on “(Academic) New Years Resolutions

  1. I went through the same process of trying to find the sweet spot, and ultimately found it by leaving academia. I’m now working in industry and I work WAY less hours, get paid a lot more, and still get to work on challenging and with interesting, smart, talented people. That sounds like bragging but I don’t mean it that way. There is this weird imbalance between academia and industry in terms of work load/stress level vs. pay that I don’t fully understand.

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  2. @nick—I worked in industry for a bit, too (in a research lab, but still), so I do agree with your assessment. Even though I did have weeks where I worked a ton (usually around paper deadlines), I did get to leave work at work for the most part, which is so nice. I think the imbalance comes from the whole “academia is a calling, not a job” mentality, at least partially, which makes it hard to put boundaries around the work.

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