Just about all of us could use a few more hours in the day or days in the week. Unless you develop strategies that support you, you’ll end almost every day and week exhausted. If you don’t do something about it, you will eventually burn out. Much of our exhaustion comes from doing tasks without having them connect with the bigger picture. When you have a Mission and a Vision for your library program you can better see the ultimate purpose of even small tasks and quickly notice if you are furthering your Mission or being pulled away from it.
To-do lists in whatever format you like are a classic way to manage time, but just noting down tasks is not enough and can be overwhelming to look at. And if it’s overwhelming, you’re likely not to look and end up missing something. Consider putting a star by high-priority tasks, then look at your schedule and decide when during your day the priorities can be done.
You can also identify tasks by how long they are likely to take. Don’t start lengthy tasks if you only have a few minutes. You’ll likely end up having to repeat much of what you have already done. Instead, it can be helpful to keep a list of essential tasks broken down by time. This way, if you have fifteen minutes between classes, look at the list of things that require that time or less. This is not the time to start creating a LibGuide.
Most time management experts suggest scheduling non-urgent tasks for near the end of the day. These are the tasks which, if you dig into them too early, are likely to take you away from important jobs. Checking email or social media falls into this category.
We all know that part of our challenge is the time that gets “wasted.” It’s important to note that there’s a difference between procrastinating and doing what is helpful to switch gears. The brain requires a pause before shifting from one activity to another. It’s one thing if I play another game (or ten) of Klondike rather than move on to my next task. It’s different when after I finish writing my blog, which is a creative task, I insert something before I work on my lectures for a new course. I can switch more easily to checking on my students’ posts on the online course’s Discussion Board where I am responding rather than initiating. Once I have done that, my brain is ready to move onto writing my lectures.
No surprise, I found a great article from the business world which is always looking for ways to maximize available time. Naphtali Hoff offers A List of Suggestions to Become More Productive and all thirteen, in a random order, begin with the letter “S.”
- Stop – Before plunging into the next task, Hoff says to reflect on what you want to achieve. As I would say, “What will best further my Mission?” Remember to couple this with the amount of time you honestly have available.
- Set Goals – As Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up someplace else.” Goals, especially ones based on your Mission, remind you of what you want to achieve.
- Segment and Celebrate – Small, short term goals are best. Each time you accomplish one, it gives you a boost to the next one. Break down large jobs into small, attainable goals. Give yourself small rewards when you reach a goal. Knowing your reward in advance can be a fun motivator.
- Simplify – What can be done to make the task less complex? Creating short term goals are part of this.
- (Get) Serious – Let someone know about your goal. We are more likely to hold ourselves accountable if we have a partner who is aware of what we did or didn’t do. Find someone you can check in with. (Our Facebook group could be a good place for this)
- Schedule, Schedule, Schedule – Hoff is not a fan of to-do lists, but he recommends blocking out time for tasks. Time blocking allowed you to look at your schedule and match it appropriately with your goals and to-dos.
- Strategize – This is related to #6. What is the best time for each task? And what is the best time for you? If you’re most alert in the mornings, then schedule your priorities then. This will also help you feel accomplished for the rest of the day – always a good motivator.
- Snooze (Your Devices) – Hoff wants you to set a time to focus on email, which also means not checking it while you are in the middle of another job that requires your full attention.
- Smile – It creates a positive atmosphere, not only with others but also affects your posture and demeanor. We feel better about what we have to do when we’re feeling good overall.
- Stretch – As a walker, I know the benefits of stepping away from the computer and doing something physical. It doesn’t need to be long, but it needs doing. Supposedly the American Heart Association has said that sitting is the new cigarette smoking.
- Snack – Eat something healthy like fruit, vegetable sticks, or a small yogurt. It will power you back up. Do not indulge in junk food or sugars that could lead to an energy crash.
- Sleep – Trying to get more done by cutting down on sleep doesn’t work. Your brain fogs and you become less productive. And you make errors. Turn off the devices, grab your newest favorite read and snuggle in earlier.
- Self-care – Hoff and I are in complete agreement, as are other experts. Not taking care of yourself, which includes the above mentioned not getting enough sleep, is debilitating. You stop giving your best. Your job is not your first priority (or it shouldn’t be). Stop behaving as though it is.
There are many ways to get the most out of the time you have. Honoring what works for you, noticing when you’re avoiding something, and allowing your Mission to support and guide your actions will help. And remember, some days none of this works. Life happens. Accept it. Tomorrow is another day.