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I think that reorienting towards working consistently, even for just an hour a weekday, rather than aiming to set aside 4+ hour chunks at a time, is a really useful strategy.

I've also used my commute on public transit (about an hour and twenty minutes, usually) to do research reading and even some writing, although you obviously can't do that if it's standing room only. It's a nice use of the commute.

I try to write during my office hours, too, but often I'm too tired to do so, or too much in teaching mode. It's a good time for reading or marking, however.


Just a qualification on the comment that service counts for zero for tenure. At some teaching universities, service is as important as research. This was certainly the case for me - we are required to receive “exemplary scores” in 2 out of 3 areas (teaching, research, service). I got tenure through teaching and service to carry me.

I know this is not the case everywhere, but it’s important to know what role service plays at your individual institution’s tenure process.


I take walks when I feel guilty about failing to do research. While I’m on these walks I record voice memos with my thoughts about my research projects. My aim with these is to get my thoughts out out loud in a clear enough way that I can reconstruct the idea later when I’m writing. Probably 10% of the time does it work out. But it *feels* like doing research and often gets me back into “research mode”, even on days when I teach.


I am about to begin my third year on the TT at a teaching oriented state university. I have also found that scheduling some research time at the beginning of each weekday works.


What has worked really well for me (I'm currently 3 years into my TT job at a research university and on track for meeting tenure requirements) is to start each weekday during the semester with 25 minutes of writing/research. That is, obviously, not much, but it still has made a huge difference. It means that I stay mentally engaged with my research during the term and so when I *do* have a bigger chunk of time to dedicate to writing (such as during spring break), I'm able to hit the ground running and make the most of it rather than having to reorient myself in my work. Also, it has really helped my emotional wellbeing. I start each day knowing I accomplished a little research, which allows me to feel good about myself as I get swept up in other things for the rest of the day. So while I do end up doing most of my research in the summers, those 25-minute sessions during the year are greater than the sum of their parts.

I'd also encourage the OP to question the assumption that taking teaching seriously means that you can only "find" (rather than make) time for research. It's possible to take teaching seriously while still sharply limiting the amount of time you spend on it. I sometimes go into teaching slightly underprepared because I choose to prioritize that 25-minute writing session each day, and I think the impact on my students is negligible. The way I see it is that my university has employed me to do a 40/40/20 split, and so the quality of teaching they're entitled to from me is what I can offer by giving 40% of my working hours (using the summer to balance things out, of course--I certainly don't limit it to 40% during terms).

Another TT

Honestly, just block off 2 hours first thing each morning. And maybe 1/2 day Saturday. And write efficiently.

This works. Sure, not everyone prefers it. But it works. And preference is best tested by trying it for, say, a month.

Daniell Groll

The advice to write 2 hours a day and 1/2 on Saturdays gave me heart palpitations, and I'm tenured! Now, if the OP reads Another TT's advice and thinks, "Yeah! That sounds feasible" then all the power to them. They will be extremely productive. If, however, they are like me, such advice is likely to be counterproductive. I would fail immediately and then feel bad for failing.

So, if the OP is more like me, then I think some of the other advice here is much better. Try to write consistently (every weekday, maybe even on weekends), but don't put pressure on yourself to write for a specific amount of time or a specific number of words. Just write. And stop when you feel like you have nothing more to say that day or you run up against other commitments. Some days, it might be 2 minutes. It might be *one sentence* that pops into your head in the shower. Other days, it might be a couple hours (although it's rare that I really string together two hours of writing, even when I'm totally free). The main thing is to keep the engine running. You will be amazed at how quickly a small number of words a day adds up. In general, I think of words written during term time as "free words" in the following sense: every word I write is something I didn't really expect to write, so it all feels like a bonus.

Here are some other thoughts. First, it takes a lot of time to prep new courses. So, just be prepared to not put a lot of time term time toward research during your first couple years. Relatedly, precisely because it takes so much time to prep new courses, don't radically change a course each time you teach it. And, to the extent you're able, repeat classes year after year. After a couple years, your courses will be *mostly* ready to go. Then you really can take days or half days off for writing. Also related: limit your prep time. I tended to overprep in the early days. It's not just that I wouldn't be able to get to everything I have prepped. Rather, I think being too prepared -- having too much to say, having too many details to go over -- made my teaching worse. Students seem more engaged when I feel a little more like I'm flying by the seat of my pants and leave them plenty of room to air their thoughts. FWIW.

None of this is applicable to you if you're in a job that strongly prioritizes research and doesn't care that you are anything more than an adequate teacher (if that). If that's your situation, then you might want to think about lowering your expectations re: your teaching.

Daniel Groll

But you know, maybe you shouldn't trust a guy that can't spell his own name.

(Merely) Competent Teacher

"The way I see it is that my university has employed me to do a 40/40/20 split, and so the quality of teaching they're entitled to from me is what I can offer by giving 40% of my working hours (using the summer to balance things out, of course--I certainly don't limit it to 40% during terms)."

I agree with the spirit here but would go even further in the direction of limiting time invested in teaching. YMMV, but for those of us *not* on 12-month salaries, I wouldn't think of teaching obligation (to the institution) as 'balanced out' by summer research, since that's happening 'on our own time'.

I myself try to limit my teaching time to the contractually specified level averaged over my n-month contract. That's all I feel I owe to my institution, and for a variety of reasons (and setting special situations aside) I don't think I owe my students anything over and above what I've promised my institution I'll do for them.


I can't comment on the TT (yet, hopefully one day). But as a graduate student I have done a lot of teaching and I like to remember this (not an original thought):

Teaching is a gas; it will expand to fit whatever space you give it.

I think many philosophers struggle with feeling that they should give up all their time to make their teaching the best for their students. But I think we should look at it another way: if the university is not giving us enough time to prepare for our teaching in the time allotted then we should be upfront with students and others about this (perhaps not in class time, but by communicating with the student union etc.) and argue for either more budgeted time or less teaching responsibility in the given time. Our students are (in most places at least, and always indirectly through taxes) paying us for our teaching. They should get the value they deserve out of that teaching, and to get that we need to be given a reasonable amount of time to do the teaching expected.

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