When To Say Yes & When To Say No in Academia

An assistant professor of philosophy writes in with an important question that I imagine a lot of academics spend time pondering:

As I begin a new tenure-track position, I’m seeking guidance on how to respond to various requests and opportunities, including: requests to serve on departmental and college committees, opportunities to present work at conferences, invitations to contribute to edited volumes, suggestions that I take part in profession-wide service, appeals to start or take part in reading groups, temptations to sit in on colleagues’ courses, and so on. I’m not looking for advice like “only do things which will improve your chances of getting tenure.”  That won’t help me decide whether, for example, to spend time preparing for and attending a small invited conference with some of the luminaries in my area (instead of something else research-related) as it is too general. But also, it is too narrow: I don’t want to sacrifice a rewarding intellectual and personal life for the sake of the tenure scramble. I’ll have lots of choices about how to spend my time and energy, and I’m looking to hear from others about the decisions they have made that they have been happy—or unhappy—with.

Readers, please share your thoughts.

Anselm Kiefer, "Eisen-Steig" (detail)

Anselm Kiefer, “Eisen-Steig” (detail)

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