If you’ve been following my posts, I’ve been encouraging you to do some writing exercises that help you focus on your academic niche and mission (check out how to find your niche, write your one page, and write your one sentence). The goal of these activities is developing your focus so you can publish more. In this post, I’m going to talk about how to align all of your activities so that they support your mission to publish more.

If you’ve done the exercises, you know what your niche is. Now you need to know how to carve it. What I mean by “carving your niche” is establishing yourself as an authority in the niche that you’ve identified.

We establish our authority in academia by making our work public. You can quickly become an authority in your niche through publications, presentations, and external funding awards. But you are actually establishing yourself in your niche with everything you do: the courses you teach, the conferences you attend, the students you mentor, the networks you are a part of.

One of the major problems in academia is that we are pulled to do too many things. Because of this, it is easy to lose focus from our niche. We feel overwhelmed because we no longer have time to do those activities that we know we need to do but that take time and concentration, like writing and reading.

This is where time management comes in. You can’t do everything, even if other people tell you that you have to (department chair I’m looking at you). Some very worthy and potentially interesting projects are going to have to be cut.

Time to deploy your laser focus. Read your ONE SENTENCE (write your in this how-to post). Your goal is to make all of your academic activities support your goal of establishing yourself as an authority in your niche.

Say “no”depending on whether the activity can support your goal. When you are asked to serve on a committee, take on a project, teach a class, or take on a student, check your ONE SENTENCE and ask yourself:

Does this activity help me develop myself as a scholar in my niche? How?

If the answer is “no,” or the “how” is shaky, SAY NO.

If there are activities that you cannot say no to (helloooo world of the junior faculty member), get creative as to how they can be massaged in order to support your goal of carving your niche. For example, if you have to teach two sections of first year composition, theme the content of your course around your niche. Your passion will come out and you will very likely learn something from your students!

Best (just kidding–that sounds SO academic ;)),

Cathy

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