When a Forbes staff columnist published a post in 2013 on the least stressful jobs of the year with #1 on it being a university professor, she unleashed nothing short of hell. Angry outbursts followed with some professors even giving detailed breakups of the stress they go through in writing papers, preparing for lectures and presentations, correcting papers, getting research funding, working without a break through Christmas and New Year, and much more. The effect of the outrage was so immense that the author was forced to publish an addendum stating that her characterization of a professor’s job was indeed flawed.
A recent study reveals that 30% of a professor’s time is spent doing administrative tasks unrelated to teaching and research. That’s a huge loss not just for professors but also their students, universities, and the whole academicia. The study also found that on average a professor works 61 hours per week – more than 50% over the traditional 40-hour work week. Now if that isn’t an invitation to stress and all the ill health it brings, I don’t know what is. Professors make a perfect case for using the services of a virtual personal assistant. A dedicated VA whom they trust to handle non-core tasks of their personal and professional lives while they focus on their obsession i.e. research and teaching. Here are the 5 most common tasks on a professor’s plate that make good candidates for outsourcing.
#1 Online research: Preparing for classroom lectures, research papers, presentations, etc. requires in-depth internet research for the latest information from credible sources. Most good VAs are experts at online research and delegating the same to them can save a ton of a professor’s time and effort. Why spend your time google-ing when you can get the research done even as you sleep?
#2 Email management: Get your VA to screen your emails, answer the ones he/she can, and sort in order of priority the mails that do require your attention. You can train your VA to answer queries from students (unless it requires your special attention), respond to event invitations, etc.
#3 Lecture preparation: While you obviously cannot and do not want your VA to be giving lectures on your behalf, what you can delegate is the part that involves making impactful presentations, videos, podcasts, updating statistics in research material, sorting all your documents in one place for easy consumption, etc.
#4 Book keeping: This includes everything from maintaining invoices, filing reimbursement forms, taxes and accounts management, recording expenses, and other random paperwork that often piles up when you have a team of students working under you and university management to report to.
#5 Travel management: A professor’s job involves significant travelling to collect material for research, interview data subjects, meet venture capitalists interested in funding research projects, participate in research events, etc. Hiring a virtual assistant can save you the trouble of travel management – booking flights and accommodation, making local travel arrangements, scheduling meetings, etc.
Besides professional tasks, a busy professor could also use virtual assistant services to delegate personal tasks such as housekeeping, grocery shopping, buying gifts, etc. While being a professor is undoubtedly a loaded profession, hiring a virtual assistant can help you shave hours off your schedule to pursue your true passion.
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