Who’s the Most Productive Professor You Know?

If I called you on the phone and said, “Please name the most productive professor you know,” you would be able to answer that question with at least one name immediately.

It is likely that you would start to think about (or even ask me), “Do you mean in teaching?” or “Do you mean in writing?” or “Do you mean the most productive overall?” or “What do you mean by productive?”

But we aren’t having that conversation by phone. Instead, I am just going to prompt you to start making a list of the faculty members you know — either currently, from when you were in graduate school, or just by reputation — who would be considered productive. Consider the following categories in making your list (because you really are going to write down these people’s names):

  1. Teaching — Who are the people you know who are not only excellent teachers but they seem to “have it together?” Their materials are organized, they don’t look harried on the way to (or from) class, and they seem to have a flow about how they plan for and manage their teaching throughout the term.
  2. Research — Who are the people you know who manage their research in such a way that they are highly productive and yet still reasonably pleasant to be around? You can choose to write down the names of people who are in the same field as you are or people who seem to be managing their research productively in other fields. We all have plenty to learn from one another (even those who are different from us!)
  3. Writing — I deliberately chose to put this in a different category than research. Ask yourself who the faculty members are who get their writing done. Whether they are writing articles, books, monographs, conference papers, or whatever other kind of writing that is necessary for their field — they produce. Make a list of those folks.
  4. Service/Outreach — This category is called by many different names and whatever it is called at your college/university, think about who seems to be productive related to their service. Who seems to be on the committees that are “high yield” (as my friend who is an associate dean of a medical school called them) vs. committees that are “low yield?” Who are the people who are of service to the institution and the community and yet it has not consumed their entire life? You want to write down one or two names here.
  5. Workspace — Whether it is someone’s office, lab, or other workspace, there are those who seem to be organized and productive in that space. Make note of a name or two here.
  6. Family — Although it sometimes doesn’t feel like it, an academic’s life really does have parts of it other than work. Who do you know who at least appears to have their family life run in a productive manner? There may be kids involved or there may not be. You are trying to generate the names of professors (or others) who seem to have their work life in order AND they have their home life in productive order, too. Or, maybe it is someone whose worklife is in disarray but their home life has some parts that are quite productive…you can still learn from them, too.
  7. Travel — Depending on the work that you do, you may do a great deal of traveling for your scholarly activities or maybe you travel to conferences and other professional activities. Who have you noticed who seems to be an extremely productive academic traveler? They aren’t crazed at the airport, they have their materials and documents handy, they have clothes that match once they get there, and…here’s a big one, when they get back to the office, the re-enter with a sense of ease. That is someone to learn from!
  8. Promotion/Tenure/Review — If you are a newer faculty member, you are going to want to pay attention to those people who seem to have a system for getting their documentation together for their promotion and tenure packet. However, even tenured faculty members go up for annual or merit reviews upon occasion, so see if you have someone in mind who seems to know how to keep everything in order so that when it is requested, they are not running around like a chicken with its head cut off (which is never very dignified or productive for a professor!)
  9. Advising — Some faculty are not only excellent advisors, but they are productive in their advising. They have figured out how to best serve students, the department, and their own peace of mind by making sure that they have current information, correct documentation, systems for keeping tabs on students, etc. Determine who these folks are and write down their names.
  10. Other — You can choose one or more additional areas where you would like to learn more to help you in your career as a professor. Figure out the category and then think of the people’s names who represent productivity in those categories.

So now you have this great list. What are you supposed to do? Systematically, take 2 names per month from your list and ask for a phone, email, or face to face meeting so that you can learn their secrets. They will be happy to share and honored that you noticed what you perceive as their excellence in productivity. This is time VERY well invested.

For thousands of free tips to be a productive professor, here’s the place to go: http://toptenproductivitytips.com/professors/


Originally published at top-ten-productivity-tips.com.