With the start of the school year, the demands on your time just increased exponentially. By the end of the first week some of you feel you are already a month behind. To prevent yourself from spending the year in a constant state of overwhelm, you need to develop time management techniques that work for you, allowing you to get your work done and still be able to be with family and friends. In other words, have a life outside of school.
Leaders know how to manage their time. They have to. Last October I blogged about the stories we tell ourselves as to why we can’t be leaders. The first one was you didn’t have time. As you take on more tasks and responsibilities, you can quickly find yourself buried in tasks. Even with good time management, you can get swamped. You just need to know how to minimize those times when you are in work and some techniques for getting your life back in order.
You almost undoubtedly have days when you feel you will never get done. Mostly, it’s a matter of finding out what organizational techniques work best for you. Then you must become sufficiently disciplined to use them.
No one has more than twenty-four hours in a day. Realistically you need time to sleep, eat, and be with family and friends. That leaves a limited number of hours to get everything done. Yet if you look around, you will see that some people do it very well and others are constantly floundering.
The truth that you know, but hate to face, is you are probably wasting a great deal of time. It’s getting easier and easier to do so with lures such as Candy Crush or other Facebook games, checking email, or looking at posts on your social media of choice. Procrastination has always been with us, and it seems we have more ways to avoid what we don’t feel like doing.
Take an honest inventory of your habits. Make of list of how you spend (squander?) time. What tasks do you avoid doing for as long as possible? This is not meant for you to blame yourself for these habits. Even the most organized people need downtime. You can’t shift from one task to a dissimilar one without a brief break of some type. The brain doesn’t work that way. The difficulty is not to turn that brief break into an extended waste of time.
Make another list of your daily routines and your “regular” ones. Which ones require a deep focus and which are “no-brainers?” It is important to be recognize that all tasks are not equal in how much concentration they need. You should know what time of day you are best suited for the ones that involve the most attention, so that to the extent possible you can deal with them at the optimum time for you.
Think about how you spend your average work week. I sometimes characterize many librarians as living with a fire extinguisher and duct tape as their prime tools. They are spending much of their time putting out fires or patching up problems. That’s draining. For the most part it is caused by not having a Mission and Vision (which I hope you have since I have blogged about it previously), and setting goals for attaining desired objectives. As the great philosopher, Yogi Berra, is reputed to have said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up someplace else.”
Stay focused and be productive by finding a way to have a to-do list that works for you. Some highly obsessive, motivated people can have one for the day with a list of all tasks prioritized. They consider completing it a mark of their success.
The nature of your job makes it unlikely that you can do that. Your day can be very unpredictable. Consider a weekly to-do list. I have one that is for two or three days. I have a column on the right where I list the different categories of my tasks. For you it could be “back room” for tasks such as cataloging, ordering books, etc, “administration” for doing reports, and “teaching” for getting materials for a class. You would be the one to best set the categories.
I put stars next to my high priority tasks. Another way to do it is to identify tasks by whether they take concentrated time or can be done whenever you have a few free minutes. Writing a report is one that takes focused time. If you stop in the middle, you need to review what you did before continuing. Checking email can be done between complex tasks.
Some of you will find it most efficient to keep your to-do list on your phone or tablet. Others prefer a traditional pencil and paper to have it in view all the time. This is not one-size-fits-all. How you organize your available time is personal and must fit your personality, work style, and your situation. Keep experimenting until you find the one that works best for you.
For those of you who routinely stay late, it’s time to pack it up. Allow yourself only one or two late days. You have a life waiting at home. You will never finish everything. Tasks keep coming. My mantra is, “If it’s important, it will get done. It always does.”
What’s your best time management tip?