My question pretty much self explains what I've been feeling since four years, when I achieved tenure. As I moved up in the academic hierarchy, from undergrad to post-doc, then tenure-track Professor and finally tenured Professor, I realized that the burden of responsibility was always incremental, but I was prepared and after a short period of adjustment, found my way to dwell in the system and balance my obligations. I felt I was constantly learning, keeping up with administrative obligations, and contributing new ideas to my research field. However, I feel that after achieving tenure the administrative load broke that balance and four years later I'm seeing the consequences. The most unsettling sensation is perceiving that I stopped being up to date in my field. Now, I spend so much time writing grant proposal, dealing with committees and doing administration that I struggle to find time to read and stay abreast with the literature in my field, propose new experiments and “do science”. Sometimes I even feel I am starting to forget concepts and abilities that were natural to me and that are at the core of my field.

Don't get me wrong, there are many things I enjoy from my position. I like teaching, tutoring the students in my research group, every now and then I'm able to put together an interesting project with a colleague and get it running. Also, considering that I'm still relatively young and have fuel for a couple more of decades, I'm concerned that eventually I won't be able to fulfill my duties and enjoy the things I mentioned out of sheer burn out.

Is it normal to feel this way? What are the causes? Does this feeling recedes with time? Could this be an indication that I should start considering a Plan B before I get to old and moving in something else becomes harder?

I want to note that I am not in an exceptional situation: I work at a good university, salary and benefits are above average, the head of the department has never complained about my job, my student are very intelligent and independent and I already sought professional counseling (no diagnostic or conclusion.)

1 Answer 1


Tip 1: Sabbatical.

This is a great way to get up to date and to drive in your research again.

Tip 2: Leverage the abilities of your students/postdocs to help you stay up to date. If you find a paper that you would like to read, try to find a student for which the paper would also be useful, let them read it and explain to you. If you find a new book/topic you would like to know more about, try to give a lecture or a seminar about that topic.

Tip 3: Say no to more administrative positions, if ever appropriate. You've got tenure and you do your service as you should do you may say no. Some people may not like it, but this is ok - they will get over it.

There was a recent question here that was similar with some great answers, but I can't find it right now…

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    I believe this is the question you were referring to?
    – tonysdg
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 22:46
  • @tonysdg Many of the answers and comments are relevant, but it is a different question because that one was just after achieving tenure, not four years later. Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 22:58
  • @tonysdg Yes, that is the one. Although the focus of that question is different, the answers may still be helpful.
    – Dirk
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 1:07

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