Picking at the collective brain again - organizing the tenure process

As many have posted before, new job - new organization needs.

I'm now back in the academic world and have six years to make tenure. That means I need to find a good melding of tools, whether analog or digital, to track my work/academic life. So, for all you folks who have done such a longterm project before, what tips, tricks, tools, and strategies worked for you?

Here are the basic components I think I need to have:

A very good system for tracking job related work accomplished, similar to what other people have discussed here about yearly appraisals For the next six years I'll have an job review one year, followed by a tenure process review the next....

A dedicated notebook binder (I use circa) for the tenure policies, guidelines, timelines, ...

Ideas, thoughts, doodles... capture device. Another dedicated binder if I have it with me. Or palm pda, or circa micro-pda kept in wallet if I don't have the bigger capture device at hand.

EndNote as a bibliographic citation manager for my research and basic notes on it. I tried looking at Zotera, but just found that there is more institutional support for EndNote. Haven't had time yet to play with the current version and see what all its capabilities are.

Calendaring - this is where it gets ugly. I have a cicra planner with 2 pages per week, and lots of meeting notes pages and call records. In a previous academic life, I used a 2 pages per day spread and kept appointments, schedules, to do's, accomplishments and most of my notes all on the day. I found this really wasted a bunch a paper, and wasn't very easy to review. So I'm trying to separate some of these discrete elements out. The ugly part is that I have some appointments assigned to me via Oracle Calendars which does not sync to my pda, some via Outlook which does sync to my pda, and I need to keep big picture things like being out of town updated on the home calendaring system. Add to that, I think I really prefer having a paper schedule.

Some place to keep works in progress going. These could be writings, presentations, or web developments -- in other words, could be pure analog, pure digital, or a mix of the two.

Some method of reviewing and evaluating my progress as compared to the requirements and timeline.

Some way to help me see the possible connections and implications of all these different pieces. I'm a fairly linear thinker, with occasional big jumps of intuition. I wonder if some kind of mind mapping might help me keep things more cohesive, and help me make the big jumps look like innovative thinking and not stray paths! But I'm not sure how to incorporate analog stuff into mindmapping software.

Can one system both help you plan your growth and document your growth?

So, for those of you who have managed a tenure process, or a larger thesis or dissertation, What am I leaving out? What system did you use, or do you wish you had used? Any tips?

tia for all suggestions and discussions!

Syndicate content

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Wow. I have no advice,

Wow. I have no advice, exactly, but I'd look at some of the project management tools?

Advice from someone who just got tenure

It's a good idea you got here, but I have three bits of advice for you.

A) You should worry more about renewal than tenure. That's the sooner obstacle, in two or three years. Once you are renewed, most universities assume you will ace the tenure process. You don't get renewed if you don't seem like you can make tenure three or four years down the line. Remember that.

b) Learn to say "no". Very quickly, probably by your second year, you will be asked to play junior partner on a bazillion committees. You have a finite number of hours in a week, you have brand new classes to write and teach, you are probably just getting your teaching legs, and you want to advance your carrer by publishing, which means research time and writing time. This means there are only a finite number of committees, dissertation juries, examinations, and critiques you can write in a year. You DO NOT want to end up saying yes to so many things that to accomplish all your duties you have to work 70 hours a week. 50 is quite enough thank you!

C) It's good to have a plan for tenure, but it's better to have a research plan that will exite you and fuel your research for the full six years ahead. Instead of simply focussing on the cherry on top, you should worry more about the ice cream underneath. You should set yourself research goals (not publication goals) and think of your research projects. Those should be your focus. The writing and publications cannot happen if your research is: 1. crap/sloppy 2. unoriginal 3. forced. If you are not researching something which is your passion, you will not make tenure, because you'll get bored and it will show. Subpar publications are not the same as good publications and your tenure committee will see that; reviews counts as much as the number of refereed articles and book contracts you have. Take the time to create a network of colleagues with whom you can discuss and work, not compete. The more senior of these people will be writing your letters to the renewal committee. You must enjoy your work. Your work should be the ultimate goal. The tenure will be the result, but it is meaningless if you are doing meaningless work.

In follow up to Tournevis's comments ...

...this isn't my field but my guess is that you may need to say "yes" once in awhile as part of a strategy for building the support network Tournevis refers to. The trick is to be careful about what you say yes to.

And, at the risk of seeming cynical, be careful whom you trust with your best ideas. I recently heard about someone in an academic environment that was working for a friend (perhaps as a researcher, I can't remember the details) while she was working on her own thesis and she learned that the friend was using her ideas without giving her credit.

If nothing else I suggest you keep good records and perhaps even copyright your best ideas. My understanding is that copyrighting can be as simple as saving your work onto a tangible media such as a CD. Copyrights can be tough to enforce so it's best to be really sure about the people you brainstorm with.


All true. Listen to Cath

All true. Listen to Cath too.

sage advice

Thanks for the comments!

Part of the reason I took this position was because it was tenure track. Not for the tenure per se, but because of the institutional support I'll get for the research I want to do. I pretty much have a research agenda. I know things will change some as I go along, but I've got some definite goals about how I want to spend my research, and therefore writing, time.

I've been here six weeks, and I've already politely sidestepped a couple of junk publication 'offers' I've been getting. Generally it is to take over some editorial work that is no where near my research interests. Committee work, that hasn't started yet, but some of it will indeed be obligatory.

One thing, my colleagues here are incredibly supportive. So, while I will stay alert to making sure I get credit for my ideas, I've worked in far more cutthroat areas before.

So, Tournevis, having recently done this, what theory of organization works best for this kind of tracking. -- bottom up GTD kind of systems, top down Franklin Covey type systems. Or, is still just a matter of what works best for the given individual.

Hybrid system and Keeping good records and protecting your ideas

Regarding, what organizational system would probably work best, my guess is that you'll need some sort of hybrid system with GTD for tracking the stages of papers and projects and a more top to bottom Covey type system for day to day stuff.

Again, I hope I didn't sound too cynical. It seems like you know what you are getting into. I think the best way to protect your ideas without being obsessive about it is to regularly back your work up on tangible media so the date is documented. And to make a particular point of saving your best ideas --especially well developed ones approaching final form--on tangible media before you share any electronic versions which, as you know are readily copied, revised, tweaked, disseminated, and possibly saved to tangible media by someone else.

It's the modern equivalent of mailing yourself something with the advantage of not having to leave it unopened.

My understanding is that merely posting something on a site like this, saving it on your hard drive or emailing it is not enough for legal protection. I suppose it might be enough in an academic environment where intellectual integrity is well enforced, but why test that theory?

Good luck with your tenure track.


*nods in agreement*

All good points.

I am not sure you need an organizational system for the Tenure thing per se. If you have a place to jot down all your yearly accomplishments, such as your cv, or a simple word file, you'll have what you need to make your yearly reports. Keep all your meeting notes and ad hoc meetings should get notes too. Once you have that, you don't need more to keep track of what you need for tenure. You need an organizational system for each project. You normal project organization system should be enough. Then you need an organization for the day to day, in which your daily duties, and the actions you need to take for your projects, will live.

Everything else is about keeping your eyes peeled and your eyes open. It may be that you are still in the honeymoon phase. The teeth might appear later, especially when you start publishing and getting known. Juniors are not threatening. Young bright things are. If you are male, you'll get an easier time of it than if you are female. Unfortunately, that it still the world we live in. The smaller the institution the smaller the chances of having someone working in your field with the potential to steal your stuff, but as Cath says, why chance chance?