One of the things my post-doc and graduate student training did not prepare me for is the sheer amount of stuff that a professor needs to do on a daily basis. For example, on my board today (which is mostly left over from last week plus things I really should do today): inquire about a university vehicle, email someone I met at ESA, talk to one of my students about a specific project, email a collaborator about two different manuscripts, update my webpage, order my new laptop, review a proposal, finish reorganizing my reprint collection (it's been sitting in mid-organization for months), set up my lab meeting time for the semester, figure out what we're going to do in lab meetings this semester, set up my meeting time with my students, email my reading group, figure out what we're going to do in reading group this semester, deal with the stacks of papers on my desk (that one's been on the list for years), schedule my travel for this semester, hire an undergrad, etc, etc, etc. As a professor, there always seems to be more miniscule administrative stuff that someone really wants you to do.
My first year as an assistant professor, I tried naively to do everything as soon as it popped up. This lead to me behaving as if the skills that make someone a good whac-a-mole player translated into being a good assistant professor. For those of you who have never played whac-a-mole at Chuckie Cheese or some other equivalent pizza serving venue designed solely for parents to have someplace to eat where they can pretend they are on an adult date while their child runs wild in a safe atmosphere (I think these types of venues are the only reason my parents didn't drown me as a child), I have included a picture for you:
My assumption as a young assistant professor was that if I whacked all the moles fast enough, I would run out of moles and have time to do research. I have since learned the error of my ways and I will let you in on the secret they will never, ever tell you at faculty orientation: there are always more moles. In fact, I am convinced that there are an infinite number of moles. You could spend every waking hour whacking moles and still never run out of moles. Honestly.
It took me a while, but I have realized that either I constrain my mole whacking to certain regimented hours or I lose all ability to conduct research...and don't let anyone fool you, they do not grant tenure for mole whacking (unless, of course, your research actually is on mole whacking, but I imagine that is a very small group of people). As an older and wiser assistant professor, I have learned to let the moles run around my office and I studiously ignore them until mole whacking time arrives. When it does, then and only then do I pick up my mallet and whack the noisiest moles causing the most chaos. When mole whacking time is over, I put down my mallet and go back to work. This was hard to learn for me because I'm really prone to feeling of guilt when I have things sitting around undone, but man have I been productive since I implemented those rules.
Well, look at the time! I gotta go grab my mallet, Monday is prime mole whacking time.