By: Dr. Lori Skibbe
It is 4:45 pm and I realize that I haven’t written anything yet today. I am feeling tired, after a day filled with meetings. I prioritized the needs of my students and the pressing deadlines associated with my grants over my scholarly writing time. I still have some time left in my work day, but I know that it will be a tough slog to complete my writing goals. Sound familiar? In my experience, it’s not just about the amount of time that you spend on a task, but also when you choose to do each task and the breaks that you take along the way that will dictate how well you do your job. I thought that you might benefit from some lessons I’ve learned about time management during my career. Even after all these years, I still need occasional reminders about how to use my time most effectively.
It is important to create a daily schedule that fits your individual biological rhythms. When I tracked the times of day when I am most and least productive, I found that I am a morning person, who likes to tackle the tough intellectual tasks first thing in the day. As a result, I schedule my writing first thing in the day most days. Although times of greatest productivity can vary by person, a study of nearly 2 million students in high school found that state test scores were higher in math when students took their math class in the morning rather than the afternoon (Pope, 2016). Grade point averages were also higher for morning classes. Thus, it is not just the amount of time that we need to consider when planning our work day, but also placing our highest priority tasks during times when we are most productive.
We must also recognize that we all need time to recharge. An academic job will take as much of your time as you will give it. Sometimes this tempts me to work long hours without taking time off or to work every day in a week. Research suggests that this is a mistake. The time we spend at work requires effort and energy, which needs to be periodically replenished, as our stores contain a finite supply (Meijman & Mulder, 1998). My energy begins to fade after two or three hours and, without some thoughtful preplanning, I can find myself looking for carbohydrates and caffeine, preferably while aimlessly searching the internet. However, when I rely on quick fixes, I actually get less done than when I manage my time in a way that allows me to take a real break from my work. My experiences resonate with work from Hunter and Wu (2016) who interviewed workers to figure out when, where, and how breaks should be taken during the work day. Most importantly, they found that breaks were critical to enhancing workplace productivity. Other things also stood out as being important: breaks should start early in the work day, be preferred activities, and occur frequently. For me, the best breaks involve physical and/or social activities, as these help me to reset my energy levels.
I encourage you to think about your own biological rhythms and what they mean for your work productivity. Do you produce better output in the morning, afternoon, or evening? What is the optimal amount of time that you can work before you find your attention wandering? What kind of break reinvigorates you most?
Hunter, E. M. & Wu, C. (2016). Give me a better break: Choosing workday break activities to maximize resource recovery. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101, 302-311.
Meijman, L. K. & Mulder, G. (1998). Psychological aspects of workload. In P. J. Drenth & H. Thierry (Eds.). Handbook of work and organizational psychology. Volume 2: Work psychology (pp. 5-33). Hove, England: Psychology Press.
Pope, N. G. (2016). How the time of day affects productivity: Evidence from school studies. Review of Economics and Statistics, 98, 1-11.
By Dr. Hope Gerde
National awards are an important component of a strong research portfolio. Receiving a national award provides prestigious recognition for your program of research and contributes to evaluation metrics such as the Web of Science, which may be valuable for reappointment, tenure, and promotion at your university. University-level awards contribute meaningfully to your CV as well; winning a university-level award may strengthen your nomination for a national award. Of course, no one is just going to give you an award, so take action to award yourself.
Some researchers may think, “If I do great work, someone will notice and award that work.” While a few researchers may be spontaneously bestowed an award, the best course of action is to take ownership over award nominations. Much like the intentionality and ingenuity you invest into your award-deserving program of research, what is likely to result in an award is taking the initiative to self-nominate, that is, 1) identify awards for which you are eligible and align with your research, and 2) actively identify and invite nomination/support letter writers.
Do not undervalue the self-nomination! No one knows your research better than you do, so why would you not make an excellent nominator of your work? You know why your work is valuable. You know who your work impacts. This is your career, so self-nominate away!
Now that you have decided to apply for an award, you must identify awards for which you and your work are eligible. Universities, professional organizations (e.g., SRCD, AERA), community agencies and foundations often provide a range of awards for researchers and educators. Their websites will provide detailed application Awards applications can be intensive with multiple components to complete, so it is important to ensure you meet the eligibility. The term “early career” varies widely and may include doctoral students, junior faculty, or those who have had a PhD for certain number of years. At times, it can include individuals who have worked at a particular institution for fewer than a given number of years no matter their rank. Check eligibility criteria carefully. Find awards that fits your content, methodology, approaches to working with communities or participants, etc. Your research is impressive; do not change it to align with an award! In the nomination letter, nominees must clarify how the work is in excellent alignment with the award. Just as you would in a grant proposal, don’t make them guess.
Now that you have selected the award for which you will apply, you will need a nomination letter.
Criteria for nominators may exist. For example, nominations may need to be from a board member of a particular professional organization or a previous winner of the award. Again, it is important to confirm this eligibility. Senior, recognized, researchers in your field, or researchers with a history of serving a specific professional organization or publishing in the awarding journal are excellent choices, particularly if they know your work well. Select letter writers who know you and your work. Provide letter writers with your CV and a brief synopsis of the specific parts of your work you would like them to include in their letter. Be sure to thank them to recognize the time they invested in your letter. A handwritten thank you card is often unexpected but a nice touch!
Use the resources available at your university or institution to support your award nomination packages. As awards become a more visible metric of superior scholarship, some departments or universities have invested resources in establishing awards committees or offices. Connecting with these folks can provide access to awards, eligibility criteria, letter writers, strategies for inviting letter writers, and more.
Persistence is the key to nearly all success in the academic career, including awards, so keep revising and resubmitting until you win or are no longer eligible. Apply to as many awards as possible but balance the time commitment; awards packages can be intensive and extensive to prepare. Invite a colleague to review your awards package prior to submission to enhance the quality.
We wish everyone well as they apply for awards and nominate their peers or mentees.