Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
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Monday, August 30, 2004

How to spend your time

A shout out to Robert Lawson over at Division of Labour. Lawson posts his advice to incoming first-year students (what used to be called freshman at his school), but which holds for all undergraduate and graduate students:
There are 3 basic ways to spend your time during your college years:

1. You can spend your time attending class and studying.
2. You can spend your time working at a job or a sport.
3. You can spend your time partying.
Spot on!!

I tend to have similar advice for those starting tenure track jobs. As a new assistant professor it is best to be seen and not heard, and rarely seen at that - it is assumed you are banging away at the typewriter and hoping to produce publications.

However, unless you are at Harvard or MIT, you likely will have the desire to do other things, so here are the basic three ways to spend your time as an assistant professor:
  1. Spend time on preparing classes and doing research
  2. Spend time on a hobby such as golf, bicycling, etc.
  3. Spend time with family

Just like Lawson's advice for freshmen, my advice for assistant professors is that you can only do two of these things really well. Too many divorces caused by spending too much time on 1 and 2, too many failed tenure runs spending too much time on 2 and 3. I found that 1 and 3 were the best uses of my time, sprinkled with a bit of 2 (golf in my case).

If I had spent considerable time on my golf game I would probably be pretty good - I have broken 80 once in my life without lessons, and if I play just a little I can get in the low 90s upper 80s. However, because I wasn't going to turn professional, golf had to take a back seat - notwithstanding the addictive nature of the game. In the end, success follows a good allocation of time which is the ultimate scarce resource.

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