Open Access Tenure: There is Never Enough Time

I can always tell when I’m especially tired, my blog drafts all start with some variation of the opening line to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

“It is a truth universally acknowledged….”

Today, that ends with “that a junior tenure track faculty member must be in want of more time.”

Odd, all the research that we do and no one has quite figured out how to add an extra 8 hours to Tuesday or put a pause on the clock.  In a recent meeting, a colleague made a very salient point: From Halloween to the end of December, minutes only have 25 seconds each.  Many days it feels that way.

And fall is a time of new ideas and initiatives, the majority of which seem to require meetings if not committees.  Projects are underway.  My two new coworkers have jumped in wholeheartedly and we’re seeing a lot of expanded engagement in colleges and departments from them. One, LabMouse, has been keeping me on track to make sure that our data consults and workshops are getting more traction. We know there are lots of people out there looking for help and we’ve got a lot of new opportunities. I have an increasing number of items on my calendar that read “Data Mgmt Consult/Workshop w/….” It’s pretty exciting all around. Slightly overwhelming though…

A discussion among my department turned the other day to what we do, or wish we could do, to make home life a little easier.  None of us presently have small children–either high school+ or no children. And so we weren’t trying to add that to the mix, but each of us mentioned different things we did or things we wished for. It reminded me of a presentation for tenure-track female faculty that I heard about a couple of years ago that led with the tenured professor’s best piece of advice in three words: “Get Domestic Help.”  Her argument was that it was better to find the money to pay someone so that you could spend the time with your friends and family or working on your research.

Time versus money, it’s a balance we’re always juggling.  For example: I take the Purple Line rather than the Metra every day because, while it’s a longer trip, it’s far less expensive. Also, I’d still have to take the Pink Line or a CTA bus every day in addition to the Metra–it’s not a one to one switch.  And the Philosopher is not at ease with the idea of someone coming in to clean. I’m not sure I am either. On one hand, it sounds wonderful, but it’s a trust issue and I’m just not sure I could add the guilt of “did I clean up enough before the cleaning person came.” Because I would feel guilty.

The time saver that I shared with my department was getting grocery delivery. As the Philosopher and I were trying to figure out eating more healthy foods, avoiding the call-for-a-pizza syndrome, etc, the prospect of intense grocery shopping lay before me. Now, in addition to figuring out recipes and menus and a grocery list and managing the pantry, I’d need to more frequently add a couple of hours of hitting the grocery, buying things, getting it home, finding parking and then getting it up three flights of stairs.  Enter Peapod. We started almost a year ago. Now, I keep a running order on the website–Philosopher and I both have the app on our phones–and about once a month I hit submit and a very nice man shows up in a designated time window with my groceries. I carry them up the stairs (they would delivery into the apt but I don’t feel like troubling them with the cats), put them away, and it’s done.

This doesn’t work for everyone; when I mentioned it the other day on Twitter a new mom I know pointed out that grocery shopping was her alone time. And it doesn’t fix the need to run by the grocery or farmers market for fresh fruits and veggies or whatever it was we forgot to order. But my time can focus rather than walking aisles to sorting out things I want to cook. I have an Evernote folder of recipes, I’m using my cookbooks more, and I’m not having to find an evening that the Philosopher and I are both home and have 2 hours just to orchestrate a grocery run. While I wait for the order to arrive in a two hour window, I can get a lot of other chores done at home.

Peapod is not available in a lot of places. But I think similar sorts of things are starting to crop up in many markets. A couple of people have asked me about cost comparison. From what I have paid attention to, it’s seemed fairly equivalent to the grocery stores near me. There are a lot of specials and they have a Peapod generic brand that works for canned beans and such–though as with all generic/house brands, there are times I find the other brands more cheaply available on the site.  And often I get coupons for free delivery in my email, so I mostly just need to pay attention and save those for the next round of shopping.

I share this with you to perhaps give you permission/impetus to try online grocery shopping, if it’s available in your area. Peapod’s been cheerfully sending me a “share with your friends and they get $20 off their first order”  ( my bias: I get $ off my next order if you do) so there’s that link if you’d like to take advantage of that.

But I’m curious what your time and sanity saver tips are? What do you do to squeeze out a little more time?

 

One Comment

  1. Comment by Andromeda:

    I get domestic help 😉

    I try to separate planning and executing tasks; the overhead of planning tasks and choosing among them can be a significant barrier to actually doing them for me, so (when I’m on top of things) I have a weekly-ish planning phase, and then when I sit down to do things I just obey my list (in Redbooth, per your suggestion). I’m not reliably good at this, though.

    Having a kid turned out to be a huge bonus to my time management skills. Once I ONLY had certain hours available to do certain tasks, and if I didn’t do them they didn’t get done…well…I procrastinate less now.

    I don’t do the unimportant things. (Although sometimes I misjudge which they are, and that’s a problem.)

    I tried using FancyHands and it didn’t work out for me (too much miscommunication about calendaring), but I’d still love to have an hour or so a week of a virtual assistant’s time.