Introducing POWER Hubs!
What is the purpose? The mission of POWER is to connect, support, and advocate for those researchers who identify as women or non-binary in the fields of education and child development. We seek to reduce gender inequity in leadership roles, establish a professional network to maximize career advancement and retention, and enhance women’s visibility in the field. Many of our members have commented on the value of networking events held at conferences and other meetings. POWER HUBs are designed to build upon these prior successes, to facilitate more frequent connections among individuals.
What is a POWER HUB? POWER HUBs are networks of researchers committed to furthering the mission of POWER. HUBs are led by a coordinator who is a POWER member and meet regularly to network among and support their members.
Who can start a HUB? A HUB can be started by any member of POWER. It can represent a certain geographical area or be held virtually based on shared interests. HUBs are designed to be flexible to meet the needs of POWER members. HUBs may be broad or may serve a specific group (e.g., early career researchers, researchers outside of academia, post-tenure faculty, graduate students, fixed-term faculty) or focus on a shared topic (e.g., mentoring, promotion and tenure).
What are the rules associated with starting a HUB? POWER members who want to start a HUB within their area should fill out this form. The Chair of the POWER Membership Committee will touch base about how to get started. This will allow HUBs to be listed on the POWER website. If a particular HUB is geared towards a specific group or topic, let us know, and this will be stated explicitly on our website. Coordinators of POWER HUBs will be asked to fill out a short 1-page form at the end of each May to tell us about how things went in the prior year. If a HUB coordinator changes or the HUB decides to disband, please note this in the form or let the Chair of the POWER Membership Committee know.
Who do I invite? POWER encourages you to use the POWER database to find other POWER members that live in your area or share your interests. You do not need to be a POWER member to attend a HUB meeting. HUBS will also be advertised on the POWER website to attract new members. A HUB can be as small as three members or as large as the coordinator feels comfortable hosting.
What does a HUB meeting look like? The location and nature of the HUB meeting is specified by the HUB coordinator. There is no mandated structure to a HUB; instead, they are designed to fit the needs of HUB participants. All meetings must adhere to POWER’s code of conduct. Some HUBs might choose to gather for coffee and sharing experiences. Other HUBs may choose to organize meetings around specific professional development topics.
Ready to get started? If you want to start a HUB in your location, or on a particular virtual topic, visit the HUBS page of our website to see if one already exists. If not, fill out a form and we’ll send you more information, and add your information to the website.
The Providing Opportunities for Women in Education Research consortium was developed to address inequities that people who identify as women or non-binary experience in educational research. We also work with our membership and broader research community in their efforts to address issues of social justice and systemic inequities. The most current iteration of blatant racism and violence, as those of the past, is deeply troublesome for us; we know that we cannot fully understand how it has impacted our membership and their communities. As an organization we unequivocally say that Black Lives Matter. We acknowledge and condemn white supremacy and racism. We recognize that centuries of systemic inequity and racism have a real and profound negative impact in the day to day lives of our colleagues of color, both professionally and personally. We acknowledge that now is the time to listen, engage, and take specific actions that combat systemic inequalities and racism in all of our organizational structures. Most of our research and scholarship engages young children and adolescents. These children and adolescents should not have to fear for their lives and those of their family and friends. We urge our membership to consider how they can use their expertise to take action in their own communities. We are committed to change in our own organizational structure and goals to ensure that we are supporting these efforts. We are committed to doing this through our own reading and learning, engagement and action in our own communities, and as always, we welcome feedback from all our members about how we can better serve both our membership and the broader educational research community.
We are here to connect, support, and advocate,
Emily Solari, President, email@example.com
Sara Hart, President Elect, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jill Pentimonti, incoming President Elect, email@example.com
On behalf of the Steering Committee.
Emily Solari, Ph.D.
Just two weeks ago, I had been prepared to send a letter to our POWER membership about the organization’s plans for the new decade. The contents largely outlined the goals and mission of the organization, described some of the work we had been actively and sometimes quietly engaged in, and our aspirations moving forward. It became evident two weeks ago the world was quickly changing, and today, having re-read what I wrote weeks ago, it became crystal clear that much of what I had outlined is no longer relevant.
As I have settled into a forced homeschool situation with my three young boys coupled by an exponential work load increase, the things I deemed important two weeks ago are no longer. Today I worry about the health of my nuclear family, my aging parents and grandparents, and my friends far and wide. In a very real way, I worry about being able to manage my job while also managing my kids at home. I hope that someday soon, I will get through just one zoom call without my 5-year-old interrupting it by yelling some totally asinine thing that at the very least worries the participants on the call, and most certainly makes it so that they are judging my parenting. As I work late into the night trying my hardest to catch up, I often get paralyzed by the thought that I just can’t do it all. I can’t, and quite frankly, I just don’t want to. It feels weird to be pushing so hard on the ordinary work things when the world is in such a desperate and strange state. I worry that my kids are worried. Should I be concerned that they have started playing a game called “social distance freeze tag”, I mean- this is odd, right? I worry about the kids in schools, those who usually benefit in some way from my work, and are often the most marginalized in schools- how are they coping at home? Essentially, I worry about all the things. And, I am concerned that with all this worry, about my family and the world around me, that I will never again be able to fully engage in the deep and critical thinking that is required in our line of work to be a productive scholar.
At the same time, I realize that my concerns are happening from a place of great privilege. I have a roof over my head, resources for myself and my children, and job security. I am keenly aware that not all the people that make up our membership are in the same situation. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the impact this situation will have on my more junior colleagues and those not situated in tenure or tenure line positions. Since so many of us work in applied research settings there is no doubt that research agendas have been disrupted. This will have more of a negative impact on our junior colleagues than more senior, there is just no way around this. Folks who hear the tick tock of the tenure clock, or were collecting data as pilot study to submit an early career grant are more impacted. Similarly, dissertation studies are being altered as we speak and graduate students and postdocs are looking at a new reality of a potentially even more difficult academic job market.
When POWER was first conceived we had a laser focus on three main goals, which are to advocate, support, and connect people in educational and human development research, with a particular interest in lifting up junior women in our fields. Now, more than ever, is the time to think about how we can do this as a collective group. I have heard from several good friends who are more junior that they feel hesitant about speaking up against the narrative around productivity during this time. To those people, I would like to scream, “I am here for you and I think many others are as well.” It is so important for us to keep in mind that for people who are in vulnerable positions within the academic structure, their vulnerability is exacerbated in times like these. The question becomes how do we use our collective voice to support ourselves and those around us.
Advocate. I am hopeful that the people who are in positions of power across the multiple institutions that we represent, and those that have secure job positions, will be unapologetic in their advocacy for folks in our community for whom this is not their reality. Those of us who can speak up, should. We should be asking the hard questions about how our institutions are going to deal with tenure related concerns and funding of graduate students as we move forward. I am not suggesting that we all have to be publicly vocal, some very important things can happen at the local level. Be the person who surfaces the issues at the faculty meetings, engage with your other more senior colleagues about these concerns. Lead the efforts around how we will rethink the notion of productivity in 2020 and 2021. Ask the hard questions about your institution’s plan to support graduate students. Bottom line, our junior colleagues should not be left alone to consider how the current situation is going to impact them differentially and in inequitable ways.
Support. People are approaching this new reality in drastically different ways, and I have found over the past two weeks that this means that there are very different types of supports that folks need. One interesting consequence of our current situation is that I have heard on more than one occasion more senior colleagues suggesting that this time is a great time to be productive. I’ve heard - we are stuck at home, why would we not consider how we can use this time to write more papers, conceive of grant ideas, etc.? To those people, I ask that you stop to consider how this narrative impacts the people around you and how actively resisting the notion of sustained and even increased productivity during this time may be a supportive step for women and our more junior colleagues. As people are settling into this new reality, we each have our own individual distractions. Some of us have increased childcare and/or eldercare responsibilities, some of us are scrambling to provide quality content to our students in an online platform for the first time, many of us have seen research disrupted. Many of us are feeling a heightened state of anxiety- we are concerned about our students, our families, the world. Let’s be mindful of this in our interactions, especially those of us who are in positions of power within institutions. And more importantly, let’s try to be intentional in support of our colleagues, especially those who are struggling to find secure footing in their personal and professional lives during these extremely trying times.
Connect. Let’s be purposeful about connecting with each other, both socially and professionally. One of the most successful activities that POWER has been engaged in over the past two years is our most simple - we host happy hours at professional conferences and meetings. These happy hours serve as a safe place for women, and, others who support women in our field to talk about successes, issues, and create meaningful relationships. Early on, our steering committee recognized that we are more powerful as advocates when we communicate with each other. As our new reality sets in, we should share what is working for us, how our institutions are responding, and ideas for advocacy and supports across institutions. Please also connect with me and with our steering committee as you see fit, we want to hear from you and we want to know how we can support your efforts at your institutions.
Let’s take care of and be kind to each other and ourselves as we move through this uncharted territory.
This week we are delighted to share our interview of Dr. Kate Cain. We had We had a thoughtful conversation about creating mentoring networks, setting goals, and other engaging topics. Please see our website for more information about Dr. Cain’s background and commitment to mentoring.
What are some of the best lessons that you have learned during your research career?
The beginning of my career was challenging. I faced a lot of rejections. In academia, we need to be resilient and not give up because we get a lot of knock-backs in this business. We must believe in ourselves and the quality of our work. We much more readily share our successes. So then when we face a failure, we think we are alone and doubt ourselves. It’s important to share the negative too. To learn about ways to make rejections a shared part of your academic community, see Barabara Sarnecka’s idea of rejection parties:
Also, because I faced these rejections early on, I also learned to get outside expert perspectives on my work before I submitted my proposals or manuscripts. It’s difficult to make yourself vulnerable, but it improves our work. We often don’t see our own flaws in thinking or writing. Also, others can see connections to related fields that deepen our work. This collaboration and difference of opinion is a good thing! It sharpens and broadens our thinking.
How do you forge these connections to ask others to review your work?
You can do this formally and informally. Informally, you can ask individuals who are in your network. Formal structures also are beneficial. Then you don’t feel like you are asking someone for a favor. In my department, we initiated an optional writing day once a month. Both junior and senior colleagues join. Sometimes people can only come for part of the day, and that is okay. Everyone sets a goal for their writing for the day, and then each person shares their work. Several colleagues provide feedback.
What should one consider when looking for a mentor?
Multiple mentors are important. Your mentor is not always someone that you are going to collaborate with on research projects. Your mentor can also be someone who has been successful in areas that you are worried about or are struggling with, such as family-work balance or teaching.
What specific advice do you have for early to mid-career women?
Be careful about trying to do too many things at one time. Do things at a sensible pace. You want to situate yourself as an expert in your field, so you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Establish your long term goals. Then think about what you need to do in the next 5 years to get there…3 years…1 year. For instance, let’s think about grants. Don’t start with a million dollar grant proposal. You haven’t demonstrated grant stewardship yet. Start with a smaller grant OR be a co-investigator on a larger grant. Give yourself the opportunity to learn how to do things. If you feel unsure, ask advice from senior colleagues. You may want to ask them: “What are my (quick) wins?”
How do you mentor doctoral students?
Again, it’s important to scaffold students to consider their goals and set a reasonable pace. One of the most helpful strategies is to help them break larger tasks into smaller chunks. When they get those wins, they gain confidence, and it keeps their spirits high. The personal connections are critical as well. I encourage them to build a peer network, such as attending a pre-conference doctoral student workshop or gathering. This gives them a sense of community.
How do you manage your time, including ensuring you have time for writing?
You have to block out your writing time on your calendar. With my doctoral students and post-docs, we also have dedicated writing days. It is set up similarly to the one I mentioned in my department, although it’s not optional.
I also reserve time on my calendar for other tasks, such as email. It’s also important to make sure you have time off away from your work. Working all the time doesn’t necessarily mean you are being productive! When I became department chair, 4 years ago I initiated a policy where individuals do not send emails to staff or students from 7 pm to 7 am. I had just read an article about how lots of us check email last thing at night, then stress and wake up in the night worrying about a work matter that you cannot get to until the next day. Of course, you’re not in a fit state to deal with that matter because you’ve slept badly. The email policy allows people to have breathing space. We need to be really thoughtful about boundaries especially when we think about power dynamics. We don’t want more junior individuals to feel like they have to immediately respond to more senior faculty or administration at every moment of the day. When there is a policy, it creates a boundary to safeguard people’s time. Of course, people may still get on email to read and draft…but they aren’t allowed to send it. We’ve now had this in place for 4 years, and other departments in the University have adopted it, and it has been helpful. We are continuing to use it.
How do you evaluate opportunities to say yes/no to? And if no, how do you communicate this answer?
I always think about whether this is a new opportunity for me or whether it is something that I have done before. With new opportunities, I’m looking to develop different skills or a different network. And sometimes I say yes to things because they are fun.
When I say no, I say something simple and straight forward, like “My time is already allocated.”
What should you consider when engaging with the media?
Get media training! You usually can get that at your university. They can teach you how to talk to different audiences and consider your message for different outlets (e.g., television, newspaper). You want to consider having an agreement with the media outlet so that you can preview what will be disseminated. Also, remember that you will have negative experiences. Everyone has one at some point. Don’t let these situations eat you up. Move on to the next opportunity.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received during your research career?
Two pieces of advice immediately come to mind.
First, write every day. This is a hard thing to do, but it is important. I put it on my calendar. Some days it is only 10-15 minutes, whereas other days I have more time to devote to writing.
Second, consider your time. When you are presented with a new task, you need to consider how this fits in with your commitments. You may need to give up something to be able to take advantage of the new opportunity. When someone who is in power asks me to take on a new task, I have begun asking this person “What should I give up to fit in this work?” This shows that you are willing to be of service but acknowledges your time limitations. It doesn’t always work as a strategy, but you may be surprised how often people are willing to help you think of solutions.
This leads us to ask…how do you evaluate what to say no to?
It is important for you to think about your goals and what you need to do to reach those goals. I have my goals written down and posted in my office, so they are always visible to me. For instance, if your goal is to be promoted or achieve tenure, then your goals should be tied to those expectations. I have seen junior colleagues and graduate students capitalize on the wrong opportunities because they have not carefully considered their goals. I have also had junior colleagues tell me no to collaborations because those opportunities are not tied to their personal goals and as such, don’t fit into their schedules at the time. I admire this because it shows they are thoughtful and responsible about their commitments. Of course, it is also important to consider your family and social responsibilities.
What are some of your lessons learned that you think are important for early and mid-career women to know?
I encourage them to find multiple mentors, including a female mentor. It is really important to have the perspective of a woman. Additionally hook into university and professional organization networks. My primary professional organization, ASHA, has wonderful opportunities to connect early career individuals with mentors. Additionally, these networks can serve a key role in advocating for equity, such as promotion/tenure extensions for family care and clarity in bylaws. Women are not asking for things to be easier, but for equitable treatment. It all goes to the community good.
They can also look for mentors at other universities. I think this provides a broadening perspective about how others do things.
How can institutions support mentoring relationships?
New faculty may not feel comfortable initiating mentoring relationships or may not understand these relationships are important. They may think that asking for a mentor is a sign of weakness. My institution does several things that support mentoring relationships. We explicitly state that new faculty should find a mentor. The mentor and mentee also go through joint training together provided by the university. Additionally, the mentor receives service credit for being a mentor.
What do you consider when mentoring doctoral students?
When doctoral students have strong social connections, such as with their advisor and their peers, they are more likely to complete their degree. I create opportunities for those social connections in group situations. At the same time, as a faculty member, we have to remember the power differential and be thoughtful in establishing boundaries. For examples, I do not interact with students on social media.
I’ve also recently learned that I don’t have to be the primary source of mentoring at all times for my doctoral students. Sometimes students react more positively to a different voice. Connecting students to other faculty members for mentoring can be very beneficial for students.
What do you think are the keys to collaborating well with other researchers?
It’s important to have those hard conversations about processes, such as authorship or how you will settle differences in opinions. It also helps if you build personal connections with your collaborators. That way when challenges arise, you trust each other and can rely on your personal relationship to help you navigate through the situation at hand.
How do you manage your time daily and on a broader level?
Time management doesn’t just happen. You need a plan You need to prioritize your tasks, so it is important to have short and long term goals. People may use different tools, like Slack or online calendars, to organize their time. Don’t get caught up in the tool. Find the one that works for you.
It’s also important to consider your family-work balance. Just like I allocate time to work tasks, I also allocate time to spend with my family and travel.
How do you stay motivated over the duration of your career?
I keep a project always on the horizon. Something that I am not actively engaging in but something that I am exploring and talking to others about. This way all your eggs are not in one basket, and you have something to be excited about. I also think that working with junior faculty and colleagues outside of your discipline keep work rewarding.
Over the last several months, the POWER Steering Committee had the pleasure of interviewing Drs. Patricia Edwards, Shelley Gray, and Kate Cain. Please see our website for more information about their backgrounds and commitment to mentoring.
As an inspiring start to the New Year, we will be sending out ambassador interviews over the next few weeks. With Dr. Patricia Edwards, we had a thoughtful conversation about what to consider when advocating for yourself and for others. Stay tuned for our next installments!
What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?
The best advice that I’ve received is that you need to have a focus. What do you want to be best known for? You can’t know everything about everything, but you can know a lot about something. Can you attract people to come and work with you? If so, you will need a focus to build up your CV in a way that attracts a talented team. When you finish your dissertation, let this launch your career instead of jumping around to this and that.
What are the most important characteristics of a good mentor?
The key to a good mentor is to know what will make an individual successful in the academy and in their given academic institution. A good mentor advocates for their mentees in many ways, such as increasing their visibility through nominating them for awards and getting them on national committees. Sometimes you will have to use your mentoring skills to negotiate for your mentees.
I want to make sure women are given equal opportunities. I want to make sure they get a seat at the table. At one of my past institutions in the 70’s, I saw that there were no women with tenure and moving through the ranks. Therefore, I tried to make sure that women who were right for this job were given opportunities and the experience they need to move through the ranks.
In academia, it is all about your reputation. No one gets to where they have gotten without help. Who do you want to help move through the ranks? How do you want to leave a legacy? This is good not only for them but for you and your institution. Women need to know the rules and then we can play it just as well or better than the boys.
What are the most important characteristics of a good mentee?
As a mentee, you need to listen to the good news AND the bad news. We need to see bad news as a learning opportunity and be humble. For example, my advisor marked my writing up so much with a red pen that it looked like it had been given a blood transfusion. I was so upset at first. But then I realized that the feedback was coming from a place of caring and I needed to learn from it. And I did. And on my later papers, my advisor didn’t need to mark them up.
Remember that you own the responsibility for your own success. Your mentor is there to support you, but you need to do the work.
What advice do you have to help people manage their time effectively and stay engaged?
I think that many junior faculty don’t know how or when to say no. As one of my colleagues says, “No is a complete sentence.” When someone asks you to do something, you want to consider “Who’s to benefit?” For instance, as a person of color, I am asked to be on many committees and serve in other roles. I have to be careful that I don’t get sliced up to the point of incompetency. Think of yourself like The Giving Tree. You only have so many resources to offer.
As a minority researcher, I get asked to do things all the time. I told someone I am not a minority anymore because you can get so sliced up and diced up. My advice is work 8 hours, sleep 8 hours, and do something else for 8 hours. And if you overcommit, you won’t be able to hold up your end of the bargain. Then your reputation suffers and you don’t want people to think of you as someone who says “Yes” but does not do what they promised.
However, saying no can be tricky because you also need to be a good citizen of your institution. Sometimes, especially as you become more senior, you need to say yes to requests because if you don’t do it, then someone else will have to do it. You want to protect your junior colleagues. You also need to be careful about who you say no to. There are two people that you have to work well with - your Dean and your Chair. Sometimes there are situations where they ask you to do something that you didn’t plan on - like a search committee. You need to be flexible.
It’s also important to remember to take a long view of your career. There are some years that you will be at the top of your game and producing a lot, and some years you will not be because of personal issues. But if you take the long view, you will always retain a focus on quality and ways to move the field forward, even if you are not publishing the same amount as in other years.
What are some of the things necessary for success that you think women researchers might not think about or need support in developing?
One thing is that the ability to teach is not going to get you tenure. But the inability to teach will get you in trouble. You have to be able to teach but also do research, write grants, and national service.
I keep copies of winning grant applications and share these as examples with my mentees so they can see what this looks like.
It’s also really important to learn how to negotiate for academic positions. We hold a negotiation workshop for our doctoral students to learn critical negotiation skills. I tell people that institutions have a salary range that they can offer, and I explain that women are earning less than men. But women did not pay less for their PhD training than men did, so why should be paid a lesser salary? That doesn’t make sense.
It’s important to know how to talk to policy makers. As researchers, we are trained to be careful about what we say about our research. At least within my own discipline, when we talk about the implications of our work, we typically limit it to suggestions of areas for future research. Trying to use our research findings to influence policies can seem like a daunting concept. However, in recent years, institutions are devoting considerable resources into helping academics build their skills, so they can communicate complex science or technical social science into ‘user friendly’ and digestible soundbites. If your research overlaps with nationally recognized policy, then this provides the opportunity for you to talk with multiple audiences. Since coming to MSU in the fall of 1989, I have continued to be an articulate spokesperson and my service has taken three forms. I have served the university, professional organizations, and parents and children. For example, I have responded to more than 50,000 teachers, administrators, daycare providers, adult educators, legislators, and governors around the country regarding the two family literacy programs I developed. I served as an advisor to the U. S. Department of Education, specifically the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Office of Planning, Budget and Evaluation. My work with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education led to the document Preparing Young Children for Success. It provides guideposts that may be helpful in taking actions to achieve the first national goal, Readiness for School. Without careful counsel, such reforms are likely to create more problems than they solve. My contributions to these policy statements and to the research and development that they support for the next five years is crucial, for I reminded the Department that teachers need to be educated in how to accommodate the needs of the changing family. My work with the Department brought me in contact with many key state and national leaders which has served as an important avenue for the dissemination of my scholarship from MSU. I was also a consulting reader of "The Mechanics of Success for Families: An Illinois Family Literacy Report." This experience also brought me in contact with several state and national leaders. Also, I had the distinct honor and pleasure to testify in Washington on March 9, 1989 to the Congressional Subcommittee on Select Education about my work with families and children. Additionally, because of my work with families and children, I was invited to the 52nd Presidential Inaugural "Bells for Hope" Historic Event and Reception in Washington, DC, January 1993.
By Hope Gerde, Jill Pentimonti, & Sonia Cabell
You may think that close only counts in a game of horseshoes or for slow dancing. However, engaging in the process of award nomination can benefit your career even if you do not win the prize. Are you perseverating over whether applying for an award is worth the time investment? The answer is YES, even if you do not receive the award!
First of all, you are guaranteed to lose 100% of the opportunities you do not take. Said differently, if you do not apply, you absolutely, positively will not win. Thus, the first step to winning an award is applying for the award. Moreover, persistence is paramount and these carefully prepared award nomination documents including research narratives and letters of recommendation can be used as drafts to work from for future, revised submissions of the same or another award. In many cases, a second or third submission of a revised award nomination results in a win. Not only do revised submissions include your more recent work, your research statement will improve each time you revise.
The preparation of award materials will help you and your nominators to carefully scrutinize your work which can and will move it forward in interesting ways.
So if you were debating on whether to apply for an award, debate no longer! It is well worth the effort. There is more to gain than to lose, so go ahead—award yourself!
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.