56/365 Scrap PilesLast week, the New York Times published an article by Craig Lambert entitled “Our Unpaid, Extra Shadow Work.” In it, Lambert describes the manner in which some tasks, ones that in the past have been performed by employees, have been tacked on to the jobs of others. This process, he argues, has resulted in the loss of employment for many and is facilitated at least in part by technology developments. It has also resulted in measurably larger work loads for those who retain their jobs and may be a growing contributor to the common medical complaint of fatigue.

Arguments on employment loss aside, I was struck by how many different tasks in the professoriate could be categorized as shadow work. For example, I do all my own copying, scanning, mail preparation, correspondence (both digital and in print): the list of tasks not directly related to my teaching or research, but in support of them, goes on and on.

And it’s not as though I can drop doing any of these tasks, nor is it appropriate for me to dump these on our office coordinator, who has loads of work to do on her own. But I can spend a bit of time reflecting on how much shadow work I do and how I can streamline it so it doesn’t take up more time than needed. A good review of past ProfHacker tips is on my to-do list.

How about you? How has shadow work crept into your life as a faculty member? What are you doing to manage it? Let us know in the comments.

[Image Creative Commons licensed / Flickr user Jellaluna]

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