Any advice for my husband, who is starting his first TT job in January? He’s in a science field, if that matters. He’s read this article: How I learned to stop worrying and love the tenure-track faculty life if you have any opinion on it.
One area his struggles is with time management and deadlines. He meets his deadlines, but often will work on new research until he absolutely has to start preparing a paper, then is working until the very last minute. “If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute!” He’s done fine in grad school and post-doc, but he is worried that his style won’t translate well to balancing teaching and advising with research.
My first advice is for your husband to ask for advice himself. :-) Specifically, he should ask his mentors and senior colleagues (respectfully) for advice when he gets on campus.
He’s right to be worried! You can do everything last-minute on the TT, but it will destroy your health and your family life, and could be less-than-great for tenure. One book he could read is On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching by James Lang. This would be especially helpful if he hasn’t combined teaching and research before.
#2 points out that the excellent Advice for New Faculty Members by Robert Boice is pretty convincing on the not binging and crashing research or teaching and also has great tips. She has definitely found that starting early and doing a bit at the time really helps her subconscious to figure out tricky problems for her seemingly in her sleep, resulting in her spending less time on teaching and writing overall with higher quality results than when she last-minutes things.
It’s kind of ok to prep your teaching at the last minute, but there will be less sleep and probably more stress than necessary. Doing a last-minute class prep is less likely to be successful when you have very little experience doing it and at figuring out how long it takes you, personally, to prep one class period from scratch. Some of this may be inevitable in the first year, but after that it should be more measured.
#2 liked to spend her Sundays doing lecture prep that first year. She also did a bunch of up-front prep work before school started getting the bones of the class down. After each lecture she either changed her notes right then or she left herself post-it notes for what to change or keep– this helped her amazingly the next time she taught the course.
I wonder if his papers have been successful in getting published if he always does them at the last minute? I would be concerned that they will get rejected rather than R&R because they are likely sloppy and do not show revisions or clear explanations, do not anticipate reviewer objections, etc. Perhaps setting up a writing accountability program or group would help him be more productive in the long run (click on our writing tag to see what we think about this). Meeting deadlines is good, but having enough time to ask for feedback before the deadline may be more successful.
#2 notes that one of Boice’s big things is to “let others do the work for you”– that’s something you can’t do if you leave things to the last minute. A grant is going to be more successful if someone proofreads it. Reviewers will like your papers better if they make sense and are error-free. He can always set himself earlier deadlines that will allow him to put down the completed paper or proposal while someone else looks at it so he can polish it at the last minute.
New research is shiny, I admit, and way more fun than revising the intro to the paper you just wrote about your previous results! What’s his R&R success rate? His grant funding rate? Sometimes last-minute grant-writing will work, but it puts a big strain on the support staff and you might not be able to get it through the relevant campus offices as fast as you think. At the very least, last-minute grant work will burn goodwill in the sponsored programs office on your campus, and you might need that later. Again, it totally does happen sometimes, but if EVERY grant is last-second hair-on-fire sign-this-form-today, you may start to encounter resistance.
#2 notes that many faculty put grants off to the last minute. If you get a reputation for *not* doing that, they will often love you and be more willing to go the extra mile for you. I speak from experience.