Make time for research!
It pays to be keenly aware of how you use your time. This is according to Siv Ellen Kraft, a recently appointed professor at the University of Tromsø.
“Although the job description for many academic positions at universities states that 50 percent of the work time should be spent on teaching and administrative duties and 50 percent on research, most academics would probably say that their other duties steal time from their research. When I first graduated, I used almost all my time on teaching. This is fairly typical when you are new on the job and want to be well prepared for the lectures,” says Siv Ellen Kraft.
“Of course teaching is important, but since we’re also employed as researchers, we have a responsibility to make time for both activities,” she emphasizes.
One thing Kraft has done to manage her time better is to make a work schedule.
“I try to make a schedule before each semester begins, where I plan my research time in relation to teaching, meetings and other duties. Ideally I would like to have some days and periods during the semester without teaching and meetings. At the same time, it’s also important for me to work somewhat continuously on research projects, including in periods with a lot of other tasks. If I only find one hour a day, this helps me to keep my projects on the front burner. Even though I seldom follow my plans down to the tee, they help me to stay organized – and make it easier to remain focused.”
More aware thanks to mentoring
Siv Ellen Kraft was recently promoted to professor at the Department of History and Religious Studies at the University of Tromsø. She says she became more aware of how she used her time when she participated in the university’s mentoring scheme to help women achieve top-level positions.
“The scheme was organized so that we were appointed a mentor from a different scientific field. Instead of getting tips about my field, I got help with planning and prioritizing and with being more critical of how I used my time. Even though a lot of what we talked about was things most of us actually know, it was very useful to be reminded of them.”
In Kraft’s department they try to set aside time for research. One way they do this is to organize the work so that academic employees can schedule more periods of research time during the semester.
“However, in the final analysis you have to take responsibility for this yourself. Academic positions come with many different demands and work duties – and many of them you could keep doing indefinitely.”
Kraft feels that the odds have been on her side in her pursuit of an academic career. She defended her thesis at the University of Bergen in 1999 and has held a permanent position at the University of Tromsø since 2000.
“I had active, strong female professors as supervisors when I was working on my master’s degree and my doctoral degree. I was also lucky to get hired early on in a permanent job that has good working conditions. In addition, the mentoring scheme was both stimulating and inspiring when it came to thinking about a promotion to professor level.”
Take advantage of the flexibility!
“I had children late in life, after I had held a permanent job for some years. I have a six-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. But although clearly it’s hectic to have small children, I would say that the university is, after all, a flexible workplace. We don’t have especially rigid working hours, and this makes it easier to combine job and family life,” says Kraft.
She usually goes home from the university at about 3:00 pm and works in the evenings and at weekends.
“I’ve published more in the period after I had children than I did before. Of course this might be because I’m older and have more experience, but I also think that having small children forces you to use your time more effectively.”
When Kraft had her second child, she chose to return to work on a part-time basis after spending the first six weeks at home.
“I worked 40 percent for about seven months before I returned to a 100 percent position. By arranging it this way, my partner and I got a longer parental-leave period in total, and at the same time I could continue with some of the projects I had underway. I could also continue supervising my doctoral students and do other tasks that are difficult to delegate to others,” she explains.
This was possible because she was assigned work duties that could mostly be done from home.
“The assumption is that the institutional leadership is willing and interested in making it work out. It’s also important to remember that there are opportunities like this in the research sector,” Kraft emphasizes.
Translated by Connie Stultz.