Sunday, February 12, 2012

working hard / hardly working

Ok. How much do faculty really work? This is me. Most weekends, I'm lucky if I invest one quarter to one half of one day usually. During the week, I usually do 9am to 6pm and then 2-3 hours in the evenings twice a week. When I have a proposal due, I'll spend 3-4 days working 16-18 hours a day. Last year I did 9 proposals as lead/sole PI. I took three weeks of vacation total. That's a lot of hours for almost any job in the world, outside of say doctors, nurses, military, lawyers starting out, and maybe some consultants. The difference, and maybe it's just me, but I think not, I almost never stop thinking about work. At the movies, while watching TV, on the train, I'm thinking about work and all the stuff I have to do and how it never goes away. There's no slow season, there's no hanging up my coat.

And compared to all these other blogs I'm reading, I feel like I'm not spending nearly as much or enough time on this job as all the other TT faculty out there. Talk about Catholic guilt. Why is it that I'm competing against every other professor in the world? And will do it all alone until I retire. In a company, you have co-workers, colleagues, at a startup, you might start alone, but you build and add people. I don't know about medical doctors, do they feel like they are competing against every other doctor out there? There's not really a team for faculty. I try to get my trainees on board, but their hearts aren't in it. They see how much I work and can't wait to graduate and leave academia as far behind as possible. So help me out, are all you TT folks out there really working the kind of hours that you blog?  Can I at least not feel guilty for taking a Saturday off?


  1. I have heard 55 hours/week is minimum. However, I am in my second year and I work only 50-53 hours a week (including Sundays). When I arrive home (@8pm), I don't think about work at all. I don't work on Saturdays.

  2. Cool. My hours add up to about 55/week. I guess a big part is also how much pressure your department is putting on you. My department has been pretty hands off thus far.

  3. ~65 hours/week. My typical schedule: M-F 730-5.30, and about two hours after the kids go to bed, and ~5hours Sunday. For context: I got tenure last year, which hasn’t reduced the hours at all!

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  5. As always, it's not the hours you put in, it's how productive you are during the hours you do put in.

    When I was a grad student, I already had one kid, so I worked 9-5, as those were the daycare hours. I don't remember having to work weekends. I outpublished all my fellow grad students who were sitting in the office for 15 hours a day by a factor 2-3.

    Nowadays, I work 9 to 5 on weekdays (eat lunch at my desk), another 2-3 hours in the evenings (I do that probably 5 days a week), and another 4-5 hours over the weekend, around chores and kids' naptimes. So I guess at the upper limit my hours comes out to 60 hrs/week, except when I have a deadline, when I pull all-nighters and generally work as much as humanly possible. Nothing changed past tenure, except that I have to do more service.

    I think the hours you work are pretty common. Don't believe all those people who are boasting about 15-hour workdays and no weekends. The US workaholic psychology is screwed up that way, everybody sports being overworked as a badge of honor. In contrast, in Europe if you talk about how much you work, people think you are stupid because you can't do all your work M-F 9-5; they have a much healthier attitude towards work and vacations, and still produce kick-ass science.