A Running Metaphor

If college is a series of sprints (if I can just make it past this next test, next paper…), and

graduate school is a marathon (2 or 3 years to write the dissertation?!?!?), then

the academic tenure track is an ultra-triathlon.

Different kinds of training and support best advance each phase. The average successful sprint through college does NOT prepare a student for graduate school (as the dropout and ABD rates attest). Nor does the successful completion of a dissertation marathon prepare the newly minted Ph.D. for managing the triathlon of service, teaching, and research.

Often the coping mechanisms of the sprint or marathon prove distinct liabilities at the later stages, even inhibiting the development of more effective strategies. It is possible, even laudable in our culture, to forgo work-life balance when facing a sprint or a marathon. But the cumulative time commitment of college + grad school + postdoc + tenure track can be upwards of 15 years. That’s a substantial chunk of anyone’s life. And the reward for success is an even bigger workload.

What are your strategies? How are they working? When was the last time you got help revising them?

~Originally posted as “Getting Started,” Nov 23, 2012.