Monday, March 28, 2011

The research spurt?

Several posts have dealt with the nebulous construct of "faculty work-life balance" and even "faculty work-work balance" (the different elements of faculty workloads and how they argue so ardently for our time). After skimming over the blog on my recent conference travel, I noticed a trend in my own research output that can only be described as a SPURT.

"Spurt: to show marked, usually increased, activity or energy for a short period" - From

I am facing a cycle of research spurts. While it doesn't sound overly attractive, it isn't all together bad. I find that I work in waves of energy when it comes to my research. I will have peak days and then, inevitably, comes the valleys. My research spurts tend to cycle along with my teaching energy levels, meaning that when I get burned out on teaching I tend to rotate BRIEFLY to a very productive, but short-lived spurts of energy on my research. Then I inevitably rotate back to teaching-based and service-based work tasks and thus the continued struggle in BALANCING the work we face in faculty life.

I noticed the other day that I had been grading speeches for a seemingly endless amount of time before I just closed everything down and had an incredibly productive spurt of energy on a research project. This was rewarding and invigorated my grading, which I could return to with new zeal. However, the spurts are not enough for long-term, consistent productivity.

Why does it seem that I am always seeking a balance among the different facets of faculty life? There is so much to do in each of the realms of academic work along the tenure track. Research, teaching, and the ever-consuming service work: they are all trying to get me to focus in their direction, but tenure insists on success in all these arenas (and then some...).

I came across this image today which represents a lot of thoughts: first and most obvious is the need for balance. Secondarily is the need to "eat the elephant one bite at a time" -- or tackle what is in front of you and to be persistent. It is with this image in mind that I am now shifting from meeting-mode to grading-mode and will then hope for a spurt of research energy to help me end the day with balance and productivity.

[Image from:]

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