Flailing

I am failing.

OK, it’s probably not that dire, but that’s how I feel many, many days this semester. I thought it was all going so well, and in so many ways, it is.  I have a ‘lab’ now, with people in it ranging from undergrad to postdocs. I have settled into my job, and the class I’m teaching this semester is going fairly well.  Two papers will be submitted by the end of the month, and I continue to love my job. Most of the time.

However, I’m totally flailing with all of the extra parts of work, and I’m not sure how to fix it. For the first time since I started in academia, I feel like I’m dropping balls.  Nope, I AM dropping balls. And my own personal giveaway for pent-up stress has returned (for me, episodes of TMJ). Luckily, I have a very physical reminder that I need to take care of myself, and am good about heeding those reminders.  But these small things—stress, bad habits, unhealthy ways of coping—have a tendency to build up and become canalized, so I need to address the root of the problem.

A TSW reader recently suggested a post on what the day-to-day job of a professor looks like, and this post can partly address that, at least for a public research university. So what do I have on my plate that is causing me to feel like a failure? Continue reading

A day in the life…

As a post-doc, I did three things: I did research, analyzed data, and I wrote. I ran behavioral experiments and western blots, I did a lot of data analysis.

There were other things – I worked with students in the lab, and I organized events with the Post-doc Association at the post-doc institution. Later I applied for jobs, a significant time commitment, especially in the second year. It isn’t that I had a lot of free time, but I did have a lot of flexibility. When a grant deadline was coming up, or a set of experiments to (hopefully) finish off a paper, I could clear blocks of time and focus on that one thing. This – and my friends in that town – are the only things that I’m nostalgic about from my postdoc.

That is not what my days look like anymore. Now I have a few other things on my plate. Now there is teaching, routine meetings, and the ongoing administrative work of running a lab, not to mention grant writing and trying to stay on top of the literature. Coming up is graduate admissions season, and a couple of deadlines for training grants for my lab peeps. This increase in the number-of-things wasn’t unexpected, I had watched and spoken with my grad school and post-doc mentors, not to mention other people both IRL and online, enough to know better. And the amount of work is a lot, but it’s not unbearable. What I am finding difficult is the fragmentation of my time.

Continue reading