Much of my time in January went to preparing my PAR -- the Professional Activities Report that is the key to a professor's salary and career. Every professor has to document all of their teaching, research, and service activities for the previous two years for review by the Dean. A strong PAR means one or more merit increments, a below average PAR means no salary increase and no promotions. Since there are only so many merit increments to go around, the reports are fairly competitive. To be successful, each professor has to demonstrate they have published more books and refereed articles, given more workshops, presented at more conferences than one peer's. They have to demonstrate they are more loved by and more successful with their students than the faculty average (which in Education Faculty has been running at 4.5 out of 5) and that they have taught more courses, or taught out of town classes or done something to dinstinguish themselves in teaching. And excellent service means serving on more committees, tasks forces, and community Boards than anyone else.
Whenever I fill in my PAR, I always feel terribly inadequate that I haven't done much more, and I always resolve to do more for next time, no matter how much I have actually done this time. Filling in a PAR always puts a lot of pressure on us to do more work. And as I resolved to do another book and more articles and develop new courses for next time, I had to stop myself and ask where the time for all this would come from. I already work more hours than is entirely fair to my family.
And it occured to me, why are we only accountable for work activities? Where is the family equivalent of a PAR? If we had to complete a Family Activities Report (FAR) maybe we would feel equivalent pressure to do more for our families. If I had to record how many times I took my daughter to Ballet or gym class or how many times I remembered to buy my wife flowers or took the family out to dinner or etc., then maybe we would realize we needed to put more time into our families than our careers. When I look around at the top performers in our Faculty, I can't help but notice that a higher than average percentage are divorced. At least one of my colleagues explicitly confessed that his wife left him over his "workaholism". My wife's area of research is work/life balance, so I am perhaps more aware of these issues than most, but even so it is hard to deprogram myself. But really, who cares if I contribute an extra article to a journal no one actually reads. If I really want to contribute to the advancement of civilization, being a better father will probably produce more demonstratable results.