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Dimitar Todorovsky has written two reports (1997, 2014) in the journal Scientometrics (impact factor of 2.27, not bad!) about his time budget as a university professor, including different phases (new teacher, director of department etc). I first heard out about the 2014 paper via Ernesto Rodríguez (twitter @eramirez) from Quantified self (http://quantifiedself.com/). Here I summarize what I found most interesting and relate it to what I’m doing now (I’m also a professor).

The first thing that surprised me is the amount of time encompassed, about 45 years. This is unique since there are so few long term studies on this kind of thing.

The second thing is his classification scheme, which basically divides his working life into teaching, scientific work and administrative work. Admin work is broken down into lab work, department work and work outside the university and I think we can assume its mostly paper work (more examples of each part would have been nice..). In any case, he states quite clearly that teaching and scientific work involve almost all activities related to them, like preparing classes and project meetings.

The third surprising fact is how much time is spent on admin. We’re left with a few numbers that remain fairly stable over the years, 18% teaching, 20% science and 51% admin. Importantly, admin time goes way up when starting a new activity, like when forming a new group or beginning a new position (the lag time to catch up to speed). So be aware about changing too often! You’ll be caught in paper work!

Both papers are quite similar, mostly concentrating on total time budgets and then variations over the years, months and days of the week. Some minor spelling mistakes are distracting and take away from the value of the work (professional “carrier” instead of career). A subtle but important point in the introduction of the 2014 paper is that more and more people and money are being dedicated to higher education, including MOOCs, etc, so that we should analyse this in more detail to be more efficient. In the end however, one would like to know more about how he jotted down all the information, longhand in a journal, on a computer? How many journals per year? (Incidentally, I wrote Prof Todorovsky asking him about this about two weeks ago, but no reply, be must be drowned in admin!).

My work

For two years now (much less than 45 years!) I’ve been keeping  a fairly detailed log book of my professional and personal life. I always have a notebook with me (a black Muji B5, 30 pages, 6 mm) and jot down different things that happen during the day. I don’t have a systematic method to jot down things, that is, I don’t always jot down my weight in the morning, or the weather every day, but in the past two years I do include in each book (which last me an average of 11 days) information about what I eat every day, new ideas, a weekly agenda, a daily agenda (hour by hour) and a two year  calendar for planning. Underneath the daily agenda, which is really a vertical line of the hours of the day from 06h00 to 20h00, I write down the tasks for that day. Apart from that I usually write down what I’m doing each hour, who I’m with and give some sort of time frame, when started, when ended.

In 2013 I started to put titles on the top of each page of the notebooks to summarize in a few words what happened on that page. I call these titles “events”. In my mind an event is an activity that takes place over time and appears important enough for me, emotionally or physically, to mention it.  However, there too I’m not too systematic, and the types of event vary. Sometimes I mention where I am as an event (at work, travelling) but other times I just mention what I’m actually doing. Most times I mention who I’m with, but I don’t always mention that I had lunch or took the metro. So at times the events, which on the one hand could be singular acitivities, get run over or confused with more mundane habits or daily activities that are not that interesting per se. It may also depend on when I put the title, sometimes I write them them the same day, or sometimes only days or weeks later, depending on the time I have. In any case, using this method I have filled out 40 notebooks in 2013 and 33 notebooks in 2014, including a total of 3657 events in 2013 and 3578 in 2014.

In my next blog I want to analyse these events in a bit more detail and relate the work events to the previous study by Todorovsky (2014).

References

Todorovsky, D. 1997. On the working time budget of the university teacher. Scientometrics 40(1): 13-21 (1997)

Todorovsky, D. 2014. Follow-up study: on the working time budget of a university teacher. 45 years self-observation. Scientometrics 101(3): 2063-2070 (2014)

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