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  • Writer's pictureBethann Garramon Merkle

Productivity can kill us, but productivity still matters. 🤔Tips for wellbeing in academia

Updated: Jan 14

Screenshot shows three main blocks, one for each of three years (2020-2022). In 2020, Product-focused work was 30%, Meetings took 20%, Email 8%, Admin 13%, and Program delivery 24%. In 2021, Product-focused work was 27%, Meetings took 22%, Email 11%, Admin 21%, and Program delivery 20%. In 2022, Product-focused work was 38%, Meetings took 17%, Email 12%, Admin 10%, and Program delivery 30%. Numbers do not sum to 100, as some activities were coded to multiple categories.

Screenshots of my time tracking over 3 years, sorted by major activity categories: product-focused work, meetings, email, miscellaneous admin, program delivery. Numbers do not sum to 100, as some activities were coded to multiple categories. (Detailed alt text provided)

I’m co-teaching a graduate course called Science Career Next Steps this semester. It’s a new course we’re piloting, and I’m thrilled to be leading a mindset and work-life-harmony thread of the course. I’m also coming to the course as someone who didn’t start in academia and only recently considered an academic career as a viable option. So, I’ve spent a lot of time looking for insights and resources to help me navigate my own transition into academia.

Prepping for this week’s time-tracking workshop (woot! yes, I am actively enthusiastic about that kind of self-study), I ran across a set of advice and resources I compiled for graduate students a few years ago. I’ve updated them and shared them below, in case they are of any help to folks who are early-career or considering a career transition.

There are a number of possible approaches for making progress toward academic and professional goals that I’ve found useful at various stages in my own (often-rocky) transition into an academic career. I started out with a “yes to everything” workaholic approach. That became starkly unsustainable, and I’ve now spent years figuring out an approach that enables me to do meaningful work without crashing and burning. I’ve especially prioritized advice and perspectives that now help me stay focused on the work that I am passionate about: making the world a better place by facilitating change and capacity building in people and systems/organizations.

The perspectives below are derived from a host of sources. This means different approaches will work for different people, and/or your mileage may vary depending on project stages, life events, external circumstances, etc. By no means are these nuggets of insight the only advice, or even the best advice.** And, some of these approaches may be difficult or even counterproductive for some folks. However, they are some starting points into discourse and resources around these ideas. (Please share yours in the comments or on social media!)

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