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non-tt faculty

As someone in a non-tt teaching intensive job, I can’t deny that I’m envious of those who face such problems. I think about research when I prepare for teaching, when I’m parenting, when I’m supposed to be sleeping, when I’m actually teaching, when I’m cooking and cleaning, when I’m applying for jobs, and especially when I’m stressing about whether I will have to leave academics when my contract ends.

That being said, I hope this isn’t taken as if I’m speaking out of resentment. I think here’s what I would have done.

Photography. Don’t try to be professional. But just using a smartphone, or a compact camera of any sort, you can start paying attention to the details around you. I think I would never have noticed so many beautiful things if I haven’t tried to occasionally take some nice photos.

Audiobooks. I particularly enjoy fantasy. It is also a lot less stressful to me compared to reading books. I think most of us who live without visual impairment have been using our eyes too much. Good audiobooks are also great performances.

Guest lectures. Give your teaching intensive colleagues a hand. It will also feel like doing something different.

Reading outside my AOS and AOC. It really helps me feel the wonder of philosophy. Just occasionally, some interaction between disciplines will become useful. But I never read outside my areas for that purpose.

YouTube. I like to watch things I never had the chance to learn, e.g. road design and traffic management; architecture; film studies and critiques; hydraulic engineering. Again, this helps me feel the wonderment about the world we live in. (And as a moral/political philosopher, I actively avoid watching things that tell me how bad/unjust the world is, as I think I’ve had my fair share in my research and teaching.)


1. I cook (every day) and bake (every other week or so). I mean to try a Buche de Noel next month.

2. Every day I read sci-fi, fantasy, or detective fiction. Lately I've also been reading a lot of literary/contemporary short stories.

3. I try other kinds of writing. I've written a couple of short stories, a few poems, and a couple of creative non-fiction pieces. I haven't published anything yet, but I enjoy the process and the writing.

4. I've started studying a non-Western intellectual tradition. I'm reading classic and contemporary work. I'm not sure I'll ever know the tradition well enough to say anything useful but I'm enjoying the reading quite a bit. I've also just started learning the language of this tradition.

5. I've found a couple of meaningful service projects, stuff a bit outside the norm of university service.


I think this is a great query. At any stage of career, burnout can be very real and I've experienced it too. It's not easy when you're in a temporary post, but even a short break of a couple of weeks can work wonders. In the end, putting yourself in the grind the whole time works counterproductively.
I like to think of productivity as tending an orchard as opposed to factory milk cow production. The latter you force yourself to produce, produce and the problem is you don't have the space to germinate new ideas and let them bud, that takes time and mental space.
In the orchard, you have several ideas, some germinal, some more developed, you look out for new directions. Sometimes (as Marcus pointed out) it's helpful to do something *completely* different, not instrumentally to gain new ideas but sometimes it can still serve as inspiration. I draw, play music, read and write fiction, watch and listen to podcasts, etc.
Some things just remain hobbies, nothing can do something professional with (right now I'm learning 17th-c Italian and French figured bass and harmony, I'm sure it's philosophically interesting but that's about it).
I've always managed to be productive by taking short breaks (I don't do like an entire summer nothing research-wise that just wouldn't work for me, but weeks of lower productivity or nothing, I do frequently)

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