I have yet to meet anyone who said they’ve mastered time management. No matter how much we have learned and put into practice, we have far too many days when we feel like a hamster on a wheel. Part of the problem is with so many tasks, both professional and personal, we can’t possibly finish them all.
The truth is, no matter how good you get at time management, there will always be days that are so hectic by evening you are exhausted. If the large proportion of your days are like this, the energy drain will rob you of your enthusiasm and joy in what you do. And that’s not good for you, your students and teachers, or your relationships family and friends (check out the last two weeks posts on burn-out and resilience).
Most time management articles and posts repeat much of the same things, which suggests they work. Most of the time we are not thinking of these practices as we dig into the day’s workload. So rather than going through a long list again, let’s try a simpler approach.
In an Edutopia post, Matthew Howell talked about Balancing Effort and Efficiency: Three Tips to Help School Leaders Establish and Achieve Their Goals While Keeping Their Workload Manageable. Focusing on just three behaviors might be just what you need to keep from becoming overwhelmed.
- Use Time Well – Setting goals with a clear why/purpose is a great way to avoid misusing your time. Think about what you are trying to accomplish and why. Once you know what the goal is, stay with it. It’s all too easy to get distracted. If you leave the room where you are working, you are bound to see something that needs your attention. Unless it’s a real emergency, train yourself to ignore it. Those pings on your phone? Ignore them until you have reached your goal. The messages will be there later.
- Simplify, Simplify, Simplify – If the task (and goal) are too large, you will find ways to procrastinate because you don’t think you will ever get it done. As the saying goes, the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.
Ask yourself, is there a way to get to the goal with fewer steps or pieces? If not, how can you break it down into small, manageable goals? Reaching them gives you the impetus to move onto the next small goal.
I have discussed my technique of telescoping, microscoping, and periscoping as a means of managing big jobs. The first step, telescoping, has you look at the whole picture and breaking it down into smaller manageable chunks. Next is microscoping where you focus completely on that small chunk. Every so often you pop up a periscope to see the next task, just to be sure you are prepared for it when you get there.
- Prioritize People – Those who know me now would be surprised to learn this was the most difficult lesson for me to learn. I would always put tasks first. If I was working with someone, I lunged into what needed to get done, saving the “chit-chat” for when we completed the work. I’d skip right over the opportunity to build relationships.
Always put people first. In the long run the tasks get done faster and better. It’s also a way to learn if someone can help you with a current project. As we find our way in these days of virtual learning and communicating and social distancing, it’s more important than ever to make meaningful contact with people.
One of your goals (and possibly a modification to your Mission) needs to be about creating community. So often administrators say, “the library is the heart of the school.” True, their actions don’t always back that up, but the more you can show that you are at the center of the educational community, the more indispensable you will be.
One more idea to help with focus. See the graphic on the left? That’s a .pdf for you. Just click, download, and print (SLW – Time management info). Post it where you can see it while you are working. It will remind you to stay on track and do better at managing your time. Most of the time.