Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A day in the life of a professor

I often get asked “So what exactly do you do all do during the day?” Most folks are a bit unclear what a professor does and, when they hear I also work from home (Athabasca is a distributed workplace), make some rather (ahem) uncharitable assumptions! I’ve been tracking my time, so here is an average day.

7:00-7:30: marked a term paper
7:30-8:06: investigated plagiarism complaint and answered students emails
8:06-8:15: walked daughter to school
8:15-8:30: worked on research project re: gender and construction work.
8:30-8:45: phone call re: union grievances
8:45-9:15: back to research project
9:15-9:30: cascade of phone call and emails re: grievances and students
9:30-9:45: back to research project but hard to focus.
9:45-10:45 prep for and chaired phone call re: new program then revised proposal and sent to colleague for review.
10:45-11:30: back to research but constantly interrupted by emails; gave up on research
11:30-12:20: went for walk; mostly thought about research problem.
12:20-1:00: student phone calls; prepped for meeting; reviewed spreadsheets.
1:00-1:30: dealt with distressed colleague and prepped for meeting.
1:30-2:00: chaired phone meeting while answering emails.
2:00-2:30: read one third of a book chapter.
2:30-3:00 prepped for meeting; answered emails.
3:00-3:45 chaired phone meeting.
3:45-4:15: marked two papers, thought about research project.
4:15-5:00 finished reading book chapter; sketched out must-do list for tomorrow; knocked together blog post.

Overall, I worked 9 hours, but will only be paid for 7. I imagine I will be answering emails tonight at some point, which will increase the time by 30 minutes or so. Over the course of the year (excluding holidays and leaves), that will work out to about 400 unpaid hours (or 11.428571 extra weeks of work).

This was a pretty average day and I’m struck by how fractured by work time was. I spent 1 hour and 45 minutes on research but it was very broken up. I’m pretty good about compartmentalizing my work ("think research thoughts NOW!") but, even so, I didn’t accomplish all that much. This fracturing has become significantly worse since I started in 2007 as layoffs and retirements have increased the administrative workload.

I'm not sure this workload is sustainable in the long term (or even the short term), which is a troubling thought. 

-- Bob Barnetson

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