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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 17: Manage your time

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay


Having done your best to plan the overall direction of the coming years, the next critical step in ensuring your enduring performance as a successful academic is to plan your week and days. The relative autonomy of most academics working in the humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) disciplines means we are, for the time being, still able to organize how, when and where we work. To paraphrase Wolf-Wendel and Ward (2015, p. 30), as long as we write the book, get the grant, submit the article or teach the class, where and how we get this work done is up to us. For many of us, time management is vital to satisfying work-related productivity demands as well as to maintaining any semblance of work–life balance given that ‘[p]art of the greedy nature of academic work is that no one tells professors when they are done or what is too much’ (Wolf-Wendel and Ward, 2015, p. 26). What this means is we must know when to work and, just as importantly, we must know when to stop.1 Each of us needs to confront the fact that we can never do everything. We can never fully bring order to all aspects of our lives (Burkeman, 2016).

Over and above the limitless demands we face, academics work in environments that offer many opportunities for procrastination and where our various teaching, service and research responsibilities make us prone to distractions. As Duncan et al. (2015,...

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