How I spend my time

As you may recall, last week I promised to account for my time and post the results here in response to Yet Another Article About Faculty Not Working (YAAAFNW). On Monday I found out about #dayofhighered, in which academics tweeted/blogged/etc about their days to bring awareness to how faculty (and academic staff) spend their time. (You can see my tweets in the sidebar.) The tweets give the story about a day in my life as prof, but I wanted to highlight the results from my time accounting experiment last week as well. Plus I wanted an excuse to make pretty pie charts. (I never get to make pie charts for my research results, so this is nerdily thrilling for me. Yes, I’m serious.)

Now, going in I indicated that my time totals might be a bit wonky due to several factors: single parenting, first week of classes (= lighter workload), light teaching and service term. And in fact there were unforeseen snafus: one kid had major sleep issues (falling asleep and staying asleep), which threw my schedule into all sorts of disarray. Also, the combo of single parenting, sleep issues, and first week back in the classroom meant that a few evenings when I would normally have worked for a few hours, I vegged instead due to sheer exhaustion.

I would have guessed around 40 hours of work, and I wasn’t too far off: the total hours I spent working came out to just under 39 hours.

The first two charts show, in hours and percentage of time, how my work hours broke down into broad categories: teaching, research, admin, service. “Admin” is sort of a catchall category: I counted general email, general reading for work, work-related social media, chatting with colleagues, etc. in this category.

Hours spent working on various tasks during one week

Figure 1: Hours spent working on various tasks last week

Percentage of hours spent on various work tasks in one week

Figure 2: Percentage of hours spent on various work tasks last week

As expected, teaching takes up the majority of my time, with administrative tasks coming in second. Sadly, I spent twice as much time last week on administrative tasks as research. However, the research breaks down to roughly an hour a day, which is respectable during the term (and certainly better than zero). This number will definitely improve over the course of the term—I’m guessing it will stabilize around 8 hours/week (except during the craziest of weeks), due to my lighter teaching load.

I decided to break the teaching category down further. In the plots below, “student” refers to student contact hours outside of class—office hours, random drop-ins, conversations after class, etc. “Classroom” refers to actual time spent in the classroom (or meeting with my independent study student). Note that total teaching hours are slightly higher here than in the first two figures because in some time periods I did two different types of teaching tasks, so I double-counted those.

Hours spent on various teaching tasks last week

Figure 3: Hours spent on various teaching tasks last week

Percentage of time spent on various teaching tasks last week

Figure 4: Percentage of time spent on various teaching tasks last week

I spend the majority of my time prepping (almost 15 hours of my 39 hour week last week), and about as much time in the classroom as I do outside the classroom with students. (According to David Levy, though, I only worked 4.25 hours last week. If only.)

So, what did I learn?

  • “Admin” takes up a much larger portion of my time than expected.
  • I spend 3 times as much time prepping for class as I do in class.
  • Even though I have a grader, I still spend time on grading, about half of that managing my grader.
  • Last week was typical percentage-wise, I think, but low hours-wise. Even so, my “light” week was just under 40 hours.

I’d like to repeat this experiment again later in the term, perhaps during a “heavy” week. The differences would be interesting, and I’m particularly interested in how much time my job takes up during those crazy weeks vs. during light weeks like this one. But one thing’s for sure: I’m not lounging on my back deck sipping margaritas all day!

How does your workweek break down?

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