This year, I have been diligently housekeeping a list of duties I have agreed or declined to accept in addition to my regular full time job. These are invitations to participate in new writing projects and academic/industry collaborations, engagements with the press and public speaking, and requests to review manuscripts or supervise/guide/provide pastoral care to students who are not formally ‘mine’.
I started tracking the new things I was being asked to consider doing because in 2017 I committed to slowing down my pace of life in academia, and in 2018 I committed to refusing overwork culture. I was also very troubled by the aggressive pushback I was receiving from some colleagues who demanded my free academic labour even after I had politely declined.
I am usually not remunerated or compensated for any of these activities nor are they formally factored into my work load, which thus demands a little more effort with time management skills on my end in order to get everything done. But still, I am committed to being as generous and collegial as my capacity and wellbeing allow and always try my best to accommodate these requests.
That said, I also feel it is important to be transparent about these additional labours, especially since different types of such ‘opportunities’ are unequally distributed by gender and seniority, such as when women academics tend to perform more pastoral care for students or when male academics tend to receive more invitations for public speaking. I don’t know what the norm or a good average for these requests are, and doubt that there is public consensus on such figures. But it would be useful to know what a healthy and sustainable average is so that we can spread the load across the hierarchies and workload types in academia.
In the interest of full disclosure, I graduated in Q3 of 2016, and was traveling extensively between continents for consecutive short-term Postdoctoral Research Fellow contracts until March this year. In April, I took up a continuing position as Senior Research Fellow in the city where I live (finally; yay!). In terms of workload, at present I am committed to research work full-time, external supervision of a handful of postgraduates, and mentor about 6 international students on a regular basis. I am also project managing three grants with teams of 4-to-8 international collaborators: In January, I started a one-year industry funded research project; in April, I started a five-year government-and-University funded research project; and in August I started a four-month industry funded research project.
I spend 2-3 weeks per month deeply engaged in international fieldwork. I do not have a dedicated writing schedule but write something (either a few lines or a whole chapter) daily whenever I find pockets of time. I am committed to not working on weekends as best as I can. Most of the students who approach me are ESL candidates and I provide a mix of pastoral and academic guidance.
I don’t quite know what these figures can be extrapolated to mean at the moment, but thought to share them since we are winding down on Q3 of 2019. This has been a useful exercise to understand where all that time has gone.