On the Limitations of Time; Or, the Tenure-Clock Time Suck

You begin looking at time differently when you start your first tenure-track job. To choose an example out of the air, let’s say you start a blog as a public service to other tenure-track professors. You do so before starting down the track, when time is easy to come by. You know it’s going to take resolve to keep blogging, but you’re willing to give that time because you know how desperate you are for information and want to keep others from the same fate.

And then you land a job and start planning courses. And then you do employee onboarding. And then you start teaching. And then you start committee work. And then you go to a conference. And before you know it, your first semester as junior faculty is two-thirds over and you haven’t posted a damn thing for ten weeks.

I resolve to do better, although I’ll probably collapse this blog into my research blog for the sake of simplicity and steady content. But there’s a clear lesson in this writing gap: your time is your most valuable asset, and everyone wants to take it from you. Students want it, committees want it, research projects want it, courses want it, and family and friends want it, sleep wants it, and your health wants it. Oh, and so does your blog.

You can’t make everyone happy. And there’s no guarantee those you do bless with your time will value it the way you do. Inevitably, a verbose colleague with a more flexible schedule (read: a senior faculty member) will use a committee meeting to show just how little awareness or interest they have in the constraints upon your time.

And there’s one more factor that I’m going to state plainly, because this blog is called “The Honest Professor” and I’d like to live up to its name: under no circumstances am I willing to allow my career to steal the time I want to give to my family. As a result, I’ll put 40 to 60 hours of work in each week—FYI, that’s what I’m putting in now, and generally keeping up with courses and, to a lesser degree, research—but beyond that, I’m done.

All that’s to say that this blog is suffering, and I know it, and I’m OK with it. I am sorry that I’m not providing the guidance I’d like to. But on the tenure track, your time is gold, and I’m going to make sure to gild my family before my blog.

Ken Ward