How I spend my time

How do I spend my time?

There's a lot of debate about how much academics work, and how much they should. Since starting at MIT, I've kept detailed data on how I spend my time. I'm making it public to contradict the notions that (1) all productive academics are somehow routinely working 80 hour weeks (my average is 55 hrs/week) or (2) that we get summers off. Is working this much really effective anyway? I'm not sure.

Update Feb 2018: More debate about how much professors work in the Atlantic.

Update Nov 2020: I can confirm that having kids at home full-time during a pandemic makes it hard to work.

Work hours per week, 2013-2020

Work hours per week, by activity, 2013-2020

About the underlying data:

I track my work time in (just about) real time using a google spreadsheet with mutually exclusive categories. I track time down to .05 of an hour, and I only count "billable" time actually worked, not time in the office or time spent on social media while I'm supposed to be working.

Research: Data collection, programming, reading, and writing. This also includes "free-think" time (adapted from Dick Hamming's "great thoughts time.") in which I try to think about two questions: "what work will define the field in 20 years?" and "why am I not doing that work?"

Teaching: Course prep, lectures, student meetings, grading, etc.

Service: Committee work in my department, committee work for MIT, graduate student advising, writing letters of recommendation, journal reviews, department meetings.

Other work: Emails, more emails, random meetings, work travel, conferences, dinners with visiting speakers, other random work obligations. Time tracking is in this category but it really doesn't take as much time as you might think.

Languages: Time I spend learning or keeping up on my research languages, but with materials that are not for research (podcasts, novels, etc).