Rambling...oh, and then a question....

A bit of wind late last night/early this morning took out the power at my apartment, which meant no heat and no hot water in addition to the no alarm clock and no lights. That meant no smoothie for breakfast - and indeed, no breakfast. Modern life seems to be kicking my ass so far today. There also seems to be some sort of joint in the roof right above the headboard of my bed that creaked ominously every time the wind picked up. This woke me up, and the continued noise of it combined with an anxious pooch who stood at the side of my bed wanting comfort meant a bit of a loss of sleep.

I'm tempted to cancel office hours today, except that would mean going home where, odds are, there is still no power or heat. And I can't really afford to not get work done as I'm watching those days my teaching release are supposed to give me to work on my book get progressively reclaimed by the University by candidate searches - there's no dodging those duties in a department this small (I'm one of 3 tenure track people at the moment, so...).

I'd be curious to hear from other people who have gone (or are going) through similar situations. I generally feel like I'm pretty good at saying no to things, but evidently my skills aren't quite up to this negotiation yet. Any tips on how to politely make sure that the department and the University are allies in this little bit of time to research rather than enemies?


7 Responses to “Rambling...oh, and then a question....”
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Dr. Crazy said...

First, that sucks about the power and the anxious pup and the ominously creaking thing.

Second, how to protect one's time?

1) If there's an option of saying no, don't say yes without taking at least a little time to consider. (for example: We'd like to meet at X time to discuss Y; would you be available? Don't say yes or no right away. Say that you need to look at your schedule and get back to them. Then, when you get back to them, you can say, I checked my schedule and I have a commitment at that time that just can't be rescheduled (they don't need to know it's a commitment to working on research - this way it sounds like an appointment of some kind) but could we do it on this alternative time/day? You might even add in some butt-kissing thing about how significant you think the meeting is and how you'd hate to have to miss it if it can't be scheduled at a convenient time for you, but that might be laying it on a bit thick, depending on your penchant for butt-kissing).
2) IF you have the kind of relationship with your chair where you could do this, you might have a conversation with him/her about concern that you really want to be a good department citizen but also that you're concerned that you're not using your research time in a way that best benefits your overall job performance. Keep emphasizing how committed you are to being the Super-Professor, and that you aren't sure how to navigate this terrain. Again, this is sort of butt-kissy, but it's an option that's worked for me in the past, as in my situation, my dept. administrators were really concerned about supporting my work and making sure that upper administration saw the fruits of my labor when I received things like course releases.

Don't know whether you've tried either of those or whether they'd work, but those strategies have served me well in the past. Good luck!

January 30, 2008 at 1:04 PM
~profgrrrrl~ said...

I have my Mondays and Tuesdays booked for research this semester. When people ask for a meeting, I tell them I know I'm all booked already on Mon/Tues (they don't need the details) and let me check my calendar for available times on Wed-Fri.

I find it's guilt that makes me think "oh, but I really could meet on Mon or Tues" and that if I just say "I'm already booked them" they don't question what I'm doing. No one expects you to have a meeting when you're teaching. No one expects you to cancel one meeting to attend another. So make some meetings with your research and stick to them. If all you feel you can grab is 1/2 day here and there, do that -- and pick the 1/2 that is most conducive to your work. That way you can point out plenty of available times when people ask.

January 30, 2008 at 4:37 PM
khora said...

I'm with dr. crazy and profgrrrrl. If it's part of your office culture to have office hours posted on your office door, you could "Meeting Availability" times to the schedule. This would help emphasize your unavailability at other certain times.

January 30, 2008 at 9:17 PM
adjunct whore said...

mr. whore is on leave this semester at the same time there are several candidates coming through....while he remains in town, he has gone to a few job talks but has had to say "no" almost daily to other events (lunches, dinners, walks, etc.)

say no. you are clearly a good citizen and everyone knows you need this time for your book. take it and don't be shy.

January 30, 2008 at 9:29 PM
ash said...

I had a colleague once at a small liberal arts school in the northeast who had certain days when he was just not on campus. We all knew, "oh, B. can't meet on Thursdays. He's not on campus that day." What was B. doing on Thursdays and where was he? Who knows? But it seemed to work pretty well for him. Maybe there is a day (or lacking that, a block of time) when you are NOT AVAILABLE. Period. Make it known, be flexible on other days/times, and stick with it. Just my two cents...

January 31, 2008 at 9:42 AM
ash said...

P.S. Not only do you NOT need to explain yourself, I think it is actually a mistake to do so. As soon as you start making excuses for protecting your time it sounds like what you are doing is (or could be perceived as) unjustified. It's none of their business. And as soon as you start having a conversation with the Chair you've opened yourself up to negotiation. You don't want/need his permission, so don't inadvertently put yourself in a situation where you are tacitly asking for his approval.

January 31, 2008 at 9:45 AM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Thanks all. Great advice all around. Amazing how much of it probably does come down to my desire to appear the good colleague. It's funny to think "I'd better be careful for tenure" even knowing that I'm clawing at the cold earth to get out of here.

There's a bit of guilt, too, because this is about a search, and the department is small, and everyone knows - but never mentions - I'm trying to head out the door while we bring someone in. Watching people tiptoe around that as we vetted application packets was interesting and probably contributed, as well.

January 31, 2008 at 12:07 PM