When I did this calculation, I realized that I was basically getting in about 50 hours/week on a good week!

When I did this calculation, I realized that I was basically getting in about 50 hours/week on a good week!

That’s crazy, and *completely* unreasonable

And if I wanted to get to 60 hours/week I’d need to have 12 job-only productive hours per weekday, and if I wanted to get to the 80 hour/week that would mean

11 hour work days all 7 days of the week. With that expectation, the only way to survive would mean one of us quitting having a career, and the other quitting being a parent.

But of course less hours mean you get to do less work. And that’s hard to accept for the uber-ambitious person that I am, surrounded by lots of uber-ambitious colleagues and hence lots of peer pressure to take on ever more work. So eventually I came up with an easier solution. I ounts” in which I was allowed to agree to do things. Once the quota is up, I have to mandatorily say no.

I travel at most 5 times a year. This includes: all invited lectures, all NSF/Darpa investigator or panel meetings, conferences, special workshops, etc. Typically it looks something like this: I do one or two invited lectures at places where I really like the people, I go one full week to a main conference, I do maybe one NSF/Darpa event, and I reserve one wildcard to attend something I really care about (e.g. the Grace Hopper Conference, or a workshop on a special topic). It is *not easy* to say no that often, especially when the invitations are so attractive, or when the people asking are so ungraceful in accepting no for an answer. But when I didn’t have this limit I noticed other things. Like how exhausted and unhappy I was, how I got sick a lot, how it affected my kids and my husband, and how when I stopped traveling I had so much more time to pay real attention to my research and my amazing students.

That was a good week, by a reasonable measure of goodness

I have a quota for non-teaching/research items. Just like the travel, I have a fixed number of paper reviews (usually 10), fixed number of graduate and undergraduate recruiting or mingling events, and fixed number of departmental committees I am allowed to do each year. I also do one “special” thing per year that might be time consuming, e.g. being on a conference senior program committee, or being on an NSF/DARPA https://besthookupwebsites.org/tna-board-review/ panel, or being on a junior faculty search committee. But only 1 per year. As soon as I sign up for that one, all present and future opportunities are an automatic no (Makes you think a lot before you say “yes”, no?). Plus, there are things that are really important to me that don’t get enforced externally. Like making time to meet other women in computer science, and doing a certain amount of outreach to non-Harvard audiences. If I’m not careful, I end up with no time for these less promoted events. And if I end up with no time for these, I end up a very bitter person. I have a quota to prevent me from accidently getting bitter.

I also have a weekly hard/fun quota There are things that for some reason are super hard, or bring out your worst procrastination habits. For me, that’s grant reports and writing recommendations. There are also things that are really fun. For me, that’s making logos and t-shirts and hacking on my website. If I can do 1 hard thing per week, and 1 fun thing per week, then I declare victory.

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