Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Publishing and administration

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that those of us in "lower/middle administration," if you will, can lose our way as relates to progress on academic research and writing. It's not that I don't write; I write all the time. I just don't write enough for publication.

In the last 3 months, I have written the following:
  • newsletters
  • annual reports
  • meeting minutes
  • reports for faculty meetings
  • training materials for advisors
  • student handbook
  • program evaluation documents
  • marketing materials
  • letters to prospective and current students
  • reference letters for doctoral students on the market
  • Powerpoint presentations about our programs

After all of that writing, and many more projects that I can't think of off of the top of my head, I am tired. Sitting down to think through conceptual frameworks, data analysis, and thoughtful discussion sections seems hard to imagine.

I spoke to a Senior Administrator Mentor the other day about this dilemma and got the riot act:

Mentor: How is your publishing going?

Me: Well... (crickets)...

Mentor: Do you have a writing day?

Me: (meekly) No. I keep scheduling all these meetings everyday, so I don't have a specific writing day.

Mentor: Well, girl, get to it! Block off a day--or most of a day--just for writing. And no writing administrative stuff on those days! Only publishable writing on writing days. And you know you will get the other stuff done, because you always do.

Me: Yeah, that's true.

I used to have writing days back when I was a faculty member. I recommend it to all the junior faculty. "Put it on your calendar and consider it sacrosanct," I tell them sagely. It was a lot easier then, especially because I like to write in endless blocks of time... 7-10 hours in a row. My current schedule just doesn't allow for this. I have more meetings than non-admin faculty members can possibly imagine, and then there are the complications and emergencies that consistently arise. I wonder at those senior administrators who continue to publish. I only have a part-time administrative job, and it takes far more time and energy than I had expected.

So, following Mentor's advice, I have set aside one day a week, or two half-days a week, off limits for meetings or anything else. I am planning to spend that writing day out of the office, in hopes of avoiding the student issues and administrative minutia that can eat up my time. I have learned that I also cannot read blogs on that day, or check email more than once an hour, if I want to be productive. We'll see how I fare.

Any other suggestions for productivity?

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