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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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Something I am not very good at is decoupling the amount of effort I am expected to put in from the output result. That is, my academic contract has a nominal number of hours that I am expected to work and that should serve as a guide for how much I can get done. In the two full years where I have time tracked everything I do for work, I have ended up substantially “in the red”; i.e. I do many more hours than the contract states. How much more? About 51 work days’ worth in a year (so an extra day per week than is specified.)

Do I mind this? No. My job is often fulfilling. It is safe, during these pandemic times, from the ravages of the virus (I am on research leave). But it did get me thinking.

With research writing, I tend to feel that I need to “put in the hours”, although I’ve noticed that most of my best writing is done relatively soon into any session. Is there any point pushing on, trying to eke out the words? Or is it better to rest when I’ve hit a certain level of output, knowing that recharging will likely make it much easier when I return? (And I am near certain that I do act more productively after a rest break.) Should I perhaps set a level of output and a time input cap on what I do? What about stopping “early” (i.e. before the end of an allotted writing slot)? This might feel as though I was breaking away from a productive session… But could leave me better recharged.