I participated in a twitter chat Sunday night #iaedchat with the focus of time management. I try to participate in all twitter chats to become more efficient as a school leader. I also thrive as a learner by applying what I learned. So, I am throwing it out that that I am going to reflect on this chat and write a blog post about it to apply the learning tonight. Because the topic was time management, this will be a quick write to maximize time and may result in a few errors or oversites….Oh well – part of the process and writing on a Sunday night…Hint, I spelled oversight wrong to see if anyone was actually reading. 🙂
I will start with saying I feel the term Time Management is a misnomer. You cannot manage time; it is not possible, what you can manage are the events and task in your role as a leader in relation to time. I always hear “I want more” time but you only get 24 hours, 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds each day (cue Rent theme). How you use that time depends on skills learned through self- analysis, planning, evaluation, and self-control. Much like money, time is both valuable and limited and it must be protected.
A school day is constantly go-go-go, so most leaders arrive a couple hours before students and staff and stay at least that long at the end of the day to tackle the email, phone calls, paperwork. While long days might be part of the role, most experienced leaders have learned some time management tricks and shortcuts to keep long hours under control. Leader who practice good efficiency techniques often find that they are more productive. Have more energy for things they need to accomplish. Feel less stressed will allow you to do the things they want. Get more things done and relate more positively to others
I am always trying to be an efficient leader and I want to share some strategies I have found helpful.
Before the day starts Set Priorities. Managing your time effectively requires a distinction between what is important and what is urgent. One of the easiest ways to prioritize is to make a “to do” list. Whether you need a daily, weekly or monthly list depends on you. Just be careful not to allow the list-making to get out of control and do not keep multiple lists at the same time. Rank the items on your “to do” list in order of priority.
Now that you have priorities, Schedule your time appropriately. Scheduling is not just recording what you must do, it’s also making a time commitment to the things you want to do. Good scheduling requires that you know yourself. Plan your most challenging tasks for when you have the most energy. Block out time for your high priority activities first and protect that time from interruptions.
Don’t forget to Delegate. Get Help from Others. Delegation means assigning responsibility for a task to someone else, freeing up some of your time for tasks that require your expertise. Delegation begins by identifying tasks that others can do and then selecting the appropriate person(s) to do them.
Stop Procrastinating is another strategy to being more efficient. You may put off tasks for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the task seems overwhelming or unpleasant. Try breaking down the task into smaller segments that require less time commitment and result in specific, realistic deadlines. If you’re having trouble getting started, you may need to do some prep work such as collecting materials or organizing your notes.
Like procrastinating, Manage External Time Wasters. Your time may be impacted by external factors imposed by other people and things. You can decrease or eliminate time spent in these activities by implementing some simple tips such as:
- Avoid small talk on the phone
- Stay focused on the reason for the call
- Start and end meetings on time
- Turn off instant messaging features on e-mail.
The more uninterrupted time you get during the day to work on priority tasks, the more effective you’ll be. Identify the activities that tend to disrupt your work, and find a solution. Like the example of checking emails and answering the phone when you’re in the middle of something important. Once you have broken your flow, it can be difficult to reestablish it. Instead, discipline yourself to work on a task single-mindedly until it’s complete.
And finally. At the close of the day Review your day. Spend 5-10 minutes reviewing your task list every day before you leave school. Give yourself credit for achieving what you wanted. If you think your day’s efficiency fell short, decide what you’ll do differently tomorrow to accomplish what you need to. Leave school in high spirits determined to pick up the thread the next day.
A few closing thoughts:
One activity I highly recommend is Learn How You Spend Your Time. Keeping a time log is a helpful way to determine how you are using your time. Start by recording what you are doing for 15-minute intervals for a week or two. Now look at the results. Identify your most time-consuming tasks and determine whether you are investing your time in the most important activities to help you.
I always recommend Starting your day with a clear focus. The first work-related activity of your day should be to determine what you want to achieve that day and what you absolutely must accomplish. Start your day with a clear purpose before you check your email and start responding to questions and resolving issues. Setting a clear focus for your day might require as little as five minutes, but can save you several hours of wasted time and effort.
I hope these strategies help in making you a more efficient leader. If you have some of your own, add them in the comment box.