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Settling in: The Researcher's Guide to Your University

Topic 4: Managing your research priorities

Ask any successful researcher how they have achieved their goals, and they will surely note the critical importance of effective work-role management. This is a complex process, entailing the effective management of short-term demands while keeping long-term goals in mind. This topic explores the four main elements of work-role management: management of time, priorities, career, and performance. It will outline the need to keep all four elements in clear focus and provide some useful suggestions for managing day-to-day operations, as well as your longer-term aspirations. The topic is a useful refresher for both new and experienced researchers. (Indeed, many experienced researchers recognise the value of reviewing their time management strategies even at later stages of their career.)

Learning outcomes

 After completing this topic and considering your university context you should be able to:

  • Identify your life and professional priorities
  • Apply effective time management strategies
  • Develop an effective career management strategy and
  • Effectively participate in a performance management discussion.

Topic Content

Read the following notes.

4.1 Priority management

4.2 Time management

4.3 Career management

4.4 Managing your performance

4.5 Managing your research projects

If you are new to the university, you should request an early discussion with your supervisor to establish baseline expectations. Some of the areas you may find valuable to discuss include:

  • Clarification of your university's (and research area's) research priorities and directions
  • Discussion of the required performance outcomes you are expected to demonstrate
  • Agreement on aspirational research goals to be achieved in the coming year
  • Review of support and resources available to assist with your research (including start-up grants)
  • Identification of skills or capabilities that require further development, and
  • The cultural expectations and contributions you are expected to make.

This discussion will help to set the basis for subsequent meetings. It will also ensure you are well focused on the priorities and goals that are in line with your new work environment.

Optional activity: Personal reflection

This topic explores the importance of priorities, time, career, and performance management. Take a little time to reflect on the main learning points from the topic. Are there strategies you need to integrate into your work-role management? Write down your highest priorities for change and put them in a prominent place on your pinup board or desk. Review them every day and make sure they remain at the forefront of your consciousness. Remember that the more you enhance your self-management skills, the more effective you will become.

As a first step, take time to review your current distractors and build some time for planning (Topic 4.2) into your daily routine. To get into the habit, take a few minutes now to list your achievements over the past week and your priorities for the coming week. Put these in a prominent position near your computer screen and refresh your commitment each day as you plan your daily tasks. This topic encourages you to review your priorities and goals. It also assists you in reviewing your time wasters and areas where enhanced skills might be worth pursuing. After you have finished the module, go back to your Induction Interview Checklist and note down the areas you would like to discuss with your supervisor or mentor. To assist you in your reflection, the key areas are listed below:

  • Clarification of your university's (and research centre's) research priorities and directions
  • Discussion of the required performance outcomes you will be expected to demonstrate
  • Agreement on aspirational research goals to be achieved in the coming year
  • Review of support and resources available to assist with your research (including start-up grants)
  • Identification of skills or capabilities that require further development
  • The cultural expectations and contributions you will be expected to make.

 You may also have other issues you would like to record at this stage.

Pursuing the topic further

There are few publications on research time management. However, you may find the following article of interest. It explores the time management practices of university staff and students. The authors note the importance of having a clear career strategy to assist in working effectively. Planning and prioritising were also important factors identified in their research.

Kearns, H. & Gardiner, M. (2007)  Is it time well spent? The relationship between time management behaviours, perceived effectiveness and work-related morale and distress in a university context. Higher Education Research and Development 26 (2), 235–247.

Another interesting paper can be found below. These authors explored the ways in which people define their work roles based on the level of uncertainty and interdependency which operates. Research work is high on both these factors.

Griffin, M. A., Neal, A. & Parker, S. K. (2007)  A new model of work role performance: positive behavior in uncertain and interdependent contexts. Academy of Management Journal 50 (2), 327–347.

 

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