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How to Be a Happy Academic

How to Be a Happy Academic
A Guide to Being Effective in Research, Writing and Teaching

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March 2018 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Want to be an effective, successful and happy academic?  This book helps you hone your skills, showcase your strengths, and manage all the professional aspects of academic life.  With their focus on life-long learning and positive reflection, Alex and Bailey encourage you to focus on your own behaviours and personal challenges and help you to find real world solutions to your problems or concerns.


Weaving inspirational stories, the best of research and theory, along with pragmatic advice from successful academics, this book provides step-by-step guidance and simple tools to help you better meet the demands of modern academia, including:

  • Optimising your effectiveness, priorities & strategy
  • Workflow & managing workload
  • Interpersonal relationships, and how to influence
  • Developing your writing, presenting and teaching skills
  • Getting your work/life balance right.

Clear, practical and refreshingly positive this book inspires you to build the career you want in academia.

Why is this Book Needed

Get the Most from this Book

Doing the Right Things Right: The Success Pyramid and The Core

Language and Terminology Issues

Theoretical Basis and Features

Chapter 1: Academic Knowledge Work as Extreme Knowledge Work
What is Academic Knowledge Work?

The Nature of Academic Knowledge Work

The Challenge of 'Extreme Knowledge Work' for Academic Workers

Section One: Choosing the Right Academic Work: The Success Pyramid
Chapter 2: Values in Academic Work
Values and Identity in Academic Work and Workers

Exploring Your Values

Values and Integrity

Reactions to Value Conflicts in Academic Workplaces

First Steps to Workable Strain: Increase Your Values Literacy

Chapter 3: Success and Its Indicators
What Success Looks Like in Academic Work

Success Is Not Equal (Especially Around Gender)

Success Is About Work and Life

Success and Quality Are Different

Is Success Subjective or Objective?

Approaching Success in Academic Knowledge Work: Occluded Games and Genres

Success Indicators and The Success Pyramid

Success Indicators over Academic Careers

Challenges in Selecting Success Indicators

Chapter 4: Doing the Right Things I: Effectiveness, Priorities, and Strategy
Priorities: The Key to Effectiveness

What Is Strategy?

Common Challenges with Good Strategy

Chapter 5: Doing the Right Things II: Goals, Tasks and Time
Time in Academic Work

Goals in Academic Work

Common Challenges when Goal Setting

Tasks in Academic Work

Handling Tasks

Common Challenges with Tasks

Section Two: Developing The Core
Chapter 6: Creativity: Adding the Vital Spark
Being and Staying Creative or ‘The Battle for Creativity’

Threats to Creativity

Chapter 7: Human Work and Self-Work
The Scope and Nature of Human Work

What Affects Human Work?

Human Work Done Well: First Steps

Relationships in Academic Work

Building Relational Networks


Teams and Working Groups


Human Work, Self-Work: A Journey Without End

Chapter 8: Learning: Success, Failure and the Growth Mindset
Mindsets in Academic Work

Learning for Growing: What and Why

Failure: Necessary and Useful

Successful Failure: A Six-Step Approach

Chapter 9: Influence: Persuasion and Connection
Rhetoric: The Basis for Better Influence

Invention: Arguments, audience, and success

Arrangement, style, and delivery: Connection and identification

Memory: Practised, effortless spontaneity

Above all: Be self-aware, but be yourself

Chapter 10: Write Anything Better
The Vulnerability of Writing in Academic Work

Different Types of Writing in Academic Work

The Quality-Prevalence Paradox of Academic Writing

The Limitations of Trick, Tips and Social Media

Genre: A Different Approach to Academic Writing

Chapter 11: Developing Better Habits and Systems
Everyday Tasks: Marginal and Fundamental Gains

Taming Everyday Tasks

Other Systems, Routines, and Habits

Section Three: Bringing It All Together
Chapter 12: Projections, Introspections, and Reflections on Academic Work
Thinking Forward: The Future of Academic Work

Thinking Inwardly: Reading Your Own Reactions

Thinking On: What We Learned Writing this Book



Effective Academic website
Visit Alex and Bailey's website The Effective Successful Happy Academic for information about their workshops and publications.

The authors not only illuminate the realities of academic work, but also provide brilliant wisdom for keeping one’s pilot light of passion constantly ignited, despite the challenges. This book is an excellent resource for doctoral students; it provides an inspirational process for success!

Lori Pollard
PhD Student, Nursing, University of Alberta

Drawing on influential, contemporary thinkers, this work explores the fears, compromise and intrinsic drive that underpin a scholarly career. It delivers a blue-print for career success and personal sustainability that places one’s own values at the core of academic practice. I couldn’t put it down!

Janice Gullick
Director of Postgraduate Studies and Coordinator of the Master of Intensive Care Nursing, University of Sydney

In a postsecondary climate of stress, disillusionment, and faculty burn out, this book shines light on the possibilities for value and meaning in our work – it is very welcome and long overdue.

Nicola Simmons
Graduate and Undergraduate Studies in Education, Brock University

Does what it says on the tin. The authors aid the reader in exploring and reflecting personally on the quagmire that is academia both explicitly and succinctly in a highly engaging manner.  Reading this text could seriously enhance your personal and professional well-being!

Di Turgoose
Health and Life Sciences, De Montfort University

It’s always hard to distill general lessons on how one should approach academic life that can be applicable to different areas of scholarship. In this excellent book. Alexander Clark and Bailey Sousa do a superb job of finding those key lessons we can apply to be happy and reasonably balanced scholars. 

Raul Pacheco-Vega
Assistant Professor, Public Administration Division, Centre for Economic Research and Teaching

Similar to most self-help books, How to be a Happy Academic offers its target readers a training manual on self-empowerment. In particular, it provides an insider perspective on seeing, doing and – most importantly – taming academic work.

Eddy Li
University of Cambridge
LSE Review of Books

As a super fan of post it notes, the cover of How to be a Happy academic made me, well – happy (well played cover designer!). The slightly unconventional vibe of the book’s title is reflected in the rest of the layout, which is cleverly designed to reward the quick flick through. Key messages are printed in huge type throughout, sometimes taking up half a page so that the physical book kind of screams affirmations at you. The layout also helps you find key sections really easily...

Instead of giving you ‘tips and tricks’, How to be  a Happy Academic encourages you to first define what success looks like for you – and work backwards from there. 

The Thesis Whisperer

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 3: Success and its indicators

For instructors

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ISBN: 9781473978805
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