The most dedicated participants of the misery sweepstakes are insisting that college professors work 80 hours a week. Tanya Golash-Boza, an academic I really admire, wrote a very enlightening post on how to ensure that you never work more than the required 40 hours a week.
I also went through a time when I worked 80-hour weeks. In my first year on the tenure-track, I came to my office every day of the week (except Sundays, but that was only because the building is locked on Sundays) and stayed there from morning till late at night. Given that I published absolutely nothing that year and barely managed to squeeze in one low-quality conference talk, I’m now at a loss to determine what exactly I was accomplishing with all that busyness. I invested endless hours into preparing and over-preparing lectures and that, of course, took all the joy out of them. I fussed interminably over the most trivial service assignments. I pondered the all-important issue of what color ink to use in grading a particular assignment. There was a lot of hustle and bustle, but very little actual work.
It is understandable that people who are just beginning their academic careers would be anxious to make a good impression while being completely clueless as to how to get organized. Since that first year, I learned how to manage my time and now lead a very different existence. This is why I agree with Tanya in that profs who dedicate twice as many hours per week to work than what their contract requires them need to stop moaning and look at their time management skills more closely.
I taught 4 courses last semester and worked actively on my research, but at the same time, I led a very rich, stress-free life, spent a lot of time with my husband and pursuing my hobbies, and couldn’t even imagine needing anything close to 80 hours per week to fulfill my duties.
Rather than having fits over the suggestion that there is no need to be a perennially stressed out academic, people should read Tanya’s blog and listen to her helpful suggestions on how to get organized.