Time Savers: Service

  • Limit Committee Work

    Serving on committees are a form of academic labor just like teaching. Think of committee work as a discrete part of your load. Don't become a committee junkie; don't become a recluse, either.

  • Know what you're signing up for

    Some committees meet more than others; some produce many documents and tasks. Ask veterans on a committee what the workload is really like, and what time of year it gets hardest.

  • Limit independent studies

    Don't allow individuals to monopolize your time. Proctor independent studies in groups, if possible - have students sharing office time or exchanging paper feedback. Or integrate independent study into a class you're currently teaching (as a TA role, or lab assistant, or...)(

  • Volunteer first

    If you're proactive about service, you'll be energized about it and possibly in control of the service's timetable.

  • Multitask

    Some service activities have free time build into them - take advantage of this time to grade or read. Other activities don't require much mental work. You might be able to read while manning the hotline, or plan a class while peeling potatoes. Avoid grading during meetings - it sends the message that your time is more valuable than everyone else's or that you're woefully disorganized.

  • Learn when and how to say "No."

    Service should be as voluntary as possible, serving the mission of the college while at the same time meeting your own goals or developing your distinct talents. Saying "yes" too often means sacrificing something else. Keep balanced.

  • Establish clear boundaries with students

    Close the office door when your open office hours aren't in session if you need to get things done. Set rules regarding your willingness to work via e-mail or other methods. Be accessible, but respect your own need for time to administer other tasks.

  • Keep the meeting on track

    Stick to the agenda and bring the conversation back to the topic if things seem to stray for too long.

  • Don't hold up the meeting

    Respect the time of others if you want them to respect your time. It pays to become more time-conscious at meetings and gatherings. Are you following the agenda? Are you raising new questions when everyone else is packing up? Are you pontificating off the cuff when you should be thinking through a topic on your own first? Are you debating a colleague in the meeting when you could better discuss it in the hallway? Are you robbing yourself of time in this incidental way?

  • Seek out opportunities

    Integrate your committee work with your faculty life so that you don't need to go out of your way to communicate with constituencies in ad-hoc extra meetings. If you're the "humanities" representative on a committee, be sure to talk up committee issues at the humanities division meeting, the evening poetry reading, the history club forum, and other events where you would normally go and your constituencies are likely to attend.

  • Request time release if the service warrants it

    If the service is important enough for you to staff it, and your workload is quantifiable, you may get to exchange service for teaching. Advising a student publication, chairing a division, running the Executive Committee all qualify for time adjustment to your workload.

Mike Arnzen, "Faculty Time Management: Secrets of Sanity," Teaching/Learning Forum