Most of us who have teaching, advising, and service commitments are guilty of using time we had set aside for research for something else. We block out some time in our schedule and even post it on the door but then, something comes up. A student needs to see us or we need to set up a time for a meeting and, somehow, we use research time to fit in those appointments. At the end of the week we realize that only a small fraction of the time set aside for research was actually used to do research. We try to justify it saying that we’ll make up the time later in the day or at home. I am writing this post to suggest that one of the most important habits for success is to respect your research time.
Think of the type of appointments in your calendar that you absolutely cannot miss. Think of your class period, for example. You wouldn’t schedule a meeting during your class time. Or think of a seminar time when you are the speaker. You are not going to miss it, right? The same inflexibility should be applied to your research time. It is sacred. It is not movable. It is not a time to catch up on other things. It is a time to close your door and ignore all calls.
The point is that there is almost no limit to the amount of time we can spend preparing notes for classes, supervising student projects, and getting involved in administrative work. When we do this, what suffers is the research. However, regardless of your teaching load, it is always a good idea to schedule research time and to get used to it being untouchable. This way you will make steady progress and you will be able to keep up with the latest results and write your papers.