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Sunday, January 6, 2013

The 80-Hour Week

The 80-hour week would be 11.4 hours, seven days a week. I have a hard time thinking most academics I know, those with spouses and friends, children, needs for sleep and sustenance, and blogs, are putting in those kind of hours. That would leave no time for Bildung or working on the scholarly base. Or Drinking. That would be everyday, working from 8-4 in the office, and then maybe working at home from 6:30-11 after dinner. Seven days a week, not just M-F. Not even my workaholic ex-spouse did that.

It's not real: people I know are not doing this. To figure out how many hours you are working, follow yourself around for a week and keep track. I've done that. Click on a link and you'll see an example of a 13 hour day I put in once. That's not typical though.

It's not necessary or desirable: there is no way that you can do intellectual work at a high quality this many hours a day.

It is not efficient. If you are doing this you are doing unnecessary things, or doing relatively trivial tasks the hard way.

Chances are, if you at a teaching intensive position, you are busy most of the time, but you aren't publishing or three articles a year.

If you are at a research intensive place, you are teaching two courses and publishing an average of 1.5 articles a year. You'll have one book for tenure, another one for full professor, and maybe an edited collection or two along the way.

I firmly believe you should occasionally coast. I have published four books, but there have been months I didn't work at all on writing books and articles. Even two month stretches. Yes, I could have eked out even more publications than I have, but to what end? I might only have six books in me for my career and I would be happy with that.

Academic hours will be variable. The 80 hour number cannot be an average; maybe it is an upper end.


Anonymous said...

Well, I have tracked myself off and on since graduate school. I do 5-6 hours a day of hard work and the rest is more mechanical. I tend to slack off Friday afternoons and evenings but I like to put that time back in Saturday afternoon - evening - Sunday morning.

In the present job I have actually put in quite a few 60-80 hour weeks but it is because of having had to do things that are normally done by staff or administrators, or resolve problems that with competent leadership would not have been created in the first place. We've also had a lot of extraordinary things happen like taking in displaced N.O. students from Katrina, and having long grievance hearings that ended in dismissal of tenured faculty, which are time consuming in a lot of ways.

I think the 80 hour weeks come from that model. I had a job where we were required to attend social events on weekends with students' parents, too, and I seriously think this kind of situation is what lengthens the work weeks.

The other one is if you are in biology and have to watch mold grow at odd hours of the night and weekend, or go and collect samples for hours. Fields like that.

Anonymous said...

AHA but here is a 70 hour man.


He is including the time spent that wouldn't billable for a lawyer, e.g. the time you spend lazily, yet fruitfully thinking about some project while you are actually doing something else, e.g. gardening or whatever.

Anonymous said...

OK, I am obsessed with the question. Administrators swear they work not 80 but 100 hours. That is 14+ per day.

M-F 7:30-4:30 in office, then 5-6:30 meeting, then 7-9 official dinner, then 10-11 take notes, check e-mail, or respond to emergency, I am guessing. That's 13 hours. 13x5=65.

That leaves 35 hours for the weekend where they might be on call for 24, but not work unless called, and put in 11 hours grinding on some institutional funding proposal or other document on the other day. Do you think?

Jonathan said...

You don't have state dinner every night even if you are POTUS.

Professor Zero said...

How else do they come up with the 100 hours a week then? Are they going to the football games and stuff as part of their job? Where do they come up with the 100 hours?

I do know some lawyers and execs and MDs who actually work 100 hours but it's like being in a marathon. All meals catered to the job, showers etc. there too, etc.