As the mother of four (2 sons born in grad school, 2 sons born on the tenure track), people are always asking me “how do you do it?” [Note, my husband never gets asked this question, which is a whole other blog post on gender attitudes.] My go to answer is always “high quality husband, high quality childcare”. This is true. But, I have also been interested in productivity for a while. I have read several books on the subject, including books designed for academics like Advice for New Faculty by Robert Boice and How to Write a Lot by Paul Silva, and those designed for a general audience like Leave the Office Earlier by Laura Stack. I also participated in the National Center for Faculty Diversity and Development’s Faculty Success Program with Kerry Ann Roquemore, which I really enjoyed.
Recently a friend posted on Facebook that he and his wife, who are both on the tenure track, were going to need some tips for success with multiple children. So, my friend Dave’s comment is inspiring my next series of posts. I am going to post a few tips that I have found have helped me be productive. Most I have implemented in the past five years or so, and I really think they have helped up my productivity.
The first tip I want to share is on my writing group. After reading How to Write a Lot, my colleague Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan and I started a writing group with our graduate students. We started out simply; I remember that our first semester one of our tasks was to read How to Write a Lot. We devised a schedule for the quarter (though Ohio State is now on semesters, so we now devise our schedule by semesters), and each person in the group took a week to share a piece of writing with the group. We usually distribute a draft of a paper, though sometimes it might just be an idea for a paper, or a conference proposal. Sarah and I both take turns in addition to the graduate students. The group helped boost our productivity by creating deadlines for the students, and for us. For instance, if a student presented a paper at a conference in the fall, we would encourage the student to put the paper on our schedule to read in the spring. This is very important because publishing is key for both tenure, and what I call the “first tenure track” – grad school. The job market is so competitive, and to stand out at all, students need to make sure they are submitting their work for publication early and often. We found that writing group was successful and resulted in several submissions.