+5 votes
asked ago in General Economics Questions by (230 points)
What stage of your career are you at, and what stages are the various projects at?

3 Answers

+1 vote
answered ago by (1.2k points)
Final year Ph.D student here. Apart from the dissertation, I am working on three projects. Project 1 is far along, we have data and analysis is underway. For Project 2, we are going to gather data later in Fall. Project 3 is still in infancy. We have a basic idea of what we want to do, but won't work on it until Spring. All these are co-authored projects, so not carrying the weight alone!
+1 vote
answered ago by (3.3k points)
Better question how many should I be working on?  

For that....

Define N as the number of projects I am currently working on.  

My optimal number of projects is N-1.
+15 votes
answered ago by (610 points)
I'm Associate Prof (8 years since PhD) and I've tried to stick to this workload for most of my career (I think this advice came from my advisor Amy Finkelstein, though she probably doesn't follow it anymore since she has a large team of people working with her now):

  - 2 projects actively working on (running regressions, writing code, writing/re-writing draft)
  - 2 projects revising (to re-submit or submit to a new journal)
  - 2 projects in "early stage" (negotiating data agreements, doing preliminary/exploratory analysis)

Given publication lags, this allowed me to stay on track to meet Glenn Ellison's advice to try to publish 1-2 papers a year. When my workload gets higher than this, I've often felt exhausted/inefficient/over-committed. Right now, I have 3-4 papers I'm revising to send back. So as a result, the number of "early stage" projects is being held down because I don't want to start anything new until I get those revisions back on editors' desks.

Even back in grad school I was usually pretty close to this workflow. I found coming up with a "Job Market Paper" pretty stressful, so I found it nice to have other projects to work on to preserve my sanity (I had two revisions to work on my last two years, and two projects that would become the other two chapters of my dissertation).
commented ago by (3.3k points)
edited ago by
This is a great answer (and advice I need to hear).  When I'm happiest, I'm probably following the 2+2+2 model you recommend above.  When I'm stressed out, I've usually started up too many things.

Also, 8 years out from Ph.D. associate.
commented ago by (400 points)
I agree that this is great advice. And I am doing too many things for sure!
commented ago by (530 points)
This is great advice. Thanks ProfNoto!