Thursday, March 18, 2010

Efficiency and your committee work

Now that we've been exploring committees and have had some discussion about the benefits and struggles of committee work, it might be interesting to explore how to maintain your committee work and remain efficient. There are a lot of great resources for navigating academic life for faculty members. While exploring some of these, I found this advice and thought it might be useful to pass some items on.

There are some good tips from the University of California, Fullerton web site:
And more advice from Ms. Mentor's recent book via Tomorrow's Professor-blog:

The advice primarily centers around several key constructs when in a committee meeting, which ties nicely to communication research on group processes:
- Try to identify finite tasks with realistic details when sitting on committees
- Help the committee stay focused on the tasks/work at hand, don't contribute to extremely tangential directions that lead one to leave the hour-long meeting bemoaning, "we didn't do anything!"
- Contribute: adding your voice seems to allow more buy-in and can add great input for those in the committee
- Do the work when you've agreed to serve on a committee, doing this ahead of time can help the meetings stay on track, be productive, and can make a new/introverted faculty member more likely to speak up in meetings

There was also advice centered on the elusive balance we all seek in our jobs and lives when it comes to Service work in the university:
- Set aside specific reading/writing/researching times in your day planner and protect those times
- Ask for advice from chairs and senior professors
- Say "no" when you know you don't have the knowledge to serve on a committee or when you know you cannot appropriate the proper amount of time
- Limit the number of committees on which you serve (one site suggested ONE standing committee and ONE other committee and some recommend taking a total break from committees to rejuvenate yourself as needed).

After reading this advice, I can see where a lot of my own heavy load has been facilitated by my desire to please those around me, to be involved on campus, and to not want to appear unwilling or uncooperative. All those feelings have done, though, is burden me with a heavy service load which threatens my energy level in all aspects of my work and can even lead to a sense of burnout. While I don't plan on avoiding committee work, I do hope to become a more positive, contributing member of the committees I'm on and to work hard to balance my own work load--because after all, if I don't protect my time, who else will?

A few other references to consider:
Boice, R. (1992). The new faculty member. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Magnan, R. & Schoenfeld, A. C. (1994). Mentor in a Manual: Climbing the Academic Ladder to Tenure, 2nd edition. Atwood Publications.
Toth, E. (2008). Ms. Mentor's New and Ever More Impeccable Advice for Women and Men in Academia. University of Pennsylvania Press.
And a personal read that I enjoy to help me avoid becoming overwhelmed,
Kasl, C. (2005). If the Buddha got stuck. Penguin.

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