timemanagement

Tick tock: “You’re burning daylight!”

I have yet to come across a college or university that requires all students to take a course in time management before they graduate.  It’s mind boggling! We in the United States require our students to take a whole bunch of General Education (GE) courses that they’ll rarely, if ever, use after they graduate, but we won’t require them take courses on topics that they will need and benefit from every day of their life during and after college. Courses like: money management, personal financing, and time management.  Some of these students eventually become professors never having learned how to manage their time effectively.

I meet a lot of faculty who want to get a lot of things done. They want to accomplish great things in academia but find themselves working around the clock and barely accomplishing anything. They’re able to meet the basic obligations of their duties and nothing more. Why is it that some faculty seem to be involved in so many exciting activities and projects, in addition to teaching, while others are barely keeping their heads above water?

Time Management!

For faculty who want to have a rich academic experience that goes beyond the classroom, the key is to develop great time management skills.  There’s been a lot said and published about time management, and I am a firm believer in it.  It’s one of my secrets to success, and how I’m able to get things done.  I’m by no means smarter than other people, but I’ve developed an uncanny ability to manage my time, focus on tasks, and see them through.

At the time of this writing this blog post, I am currently:

  • Teaching four classes
  • Supervising multiple adjunct faculty
  • Running two very successful programs at the college
  • Serving on the Executive Board for the Academic Senate
  • Chairing two Task forces
  • Serving as a Club Advisor
  • Managing two grants with a third on its way
  • Managing 4 websites
  • And the list goes on!

It’s a lot, but I enjoy it, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve others. Here’s how I’m able to do all of these things and still have a personal life and spend time with my family and adorable Great Dane. You can do the same by implementing the following 5 tips:

 

1. Get Organized:

There are two parts to getting organized in my book. The first part is to declutter. Make sure that you have a place for “everything” and develop the habit of using these places.  Create a place for your: keys, books, equipment, clothes, files, and everything else that you use. Clutter is the antithesis of organization.

The second part is preparation. In my former profession (Hospitality Management), we used a French phrase that embodied the spirit of organization. That phrase was “mise en place”, which loosely translated to “everything in its place” or “setting up”.  Before you begin any task, make sure that you have everything that you need ready and in place. It’s a form of organization that forces you to plan ahead and be prepared. This process increases your productivity and efficiency by leaps and bounds.

Be surgical about this approach. Consider what would happen if a surgeon walked into a surgery and none of the instruments he or she needed were ready: sanitized, organized, or in place for use.  This lack of organization would probably kill some of the patients who would have to wait while each instrument is readied.

If you happen to be one of the few people who are naturally organized, move onto the next tip.

 

2. Schedule EVERYTHING!

In the words of the great management guru Dr. Peter Drucker, “What gets scheduled gets done!”. Develop the habit of creating a task list on a daily basis and schedule them as well as your other activities in a calendar.

What should you include in your calendar?

When you first start off, I would recommend including everything on your calendar.  Some people believe that you should only schedule appointments, but the problem with that is that it leaves your calendar looking mostly empty, which creates the illusion that you are free or available.  The truth is that there are probably other things that occupy a portion of your time that had you listed on your calendar you would realize that you don’t have as much free time as you thought.  Things like your morning routine, teaching blocks, commute time, office hours, and other activities.  Create categories for the activities that you need to schedule and list each scheduled item under their respective category.

My calendar includes 8 color categories:
1. Personal
2. Assignments (Deadlines)
3. Classes
4. Club
5. Mt.SAC (Other college related activities)
6. Office Hours
7. Senate
8. Senate Executive Board

Color coding makes it easier for me to identify things on my calendar.

 

3. Plan Ahead

When scheduling tasks in your calendar, be sure to schedule a start date and time as well as your deadlines. Most people only schedule deadlines, which is why they always find themselves scrambling at the last minute to meet a deadline. They scramble because they forgot to set some time aside in their schedule to work on their tasks; they only listed the task completion date. I used to be one of those people until I finally figured it out.  I thought having a calendar and scheduling deadlines made me efficient, but it didn’t because my method was flawed. It was missing a key component. I needed to tell myself when to start a task.

So, when using your calendar be sure to schedule each task and deadlines twice. First schedule the deadline and then ask yourself, “When do I need to begin working on this task so that I can get it done on time, without stressing out or cramming?” Once you’ve answered that question, schedule that particular “start date” in your calendar.

 

4. Avoid Overload – Say No!

“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.” -Lucille Ball

I love this saying because it is so true for many people. Busy people who get things done are usually the first to be asked to do something new or more because they have a reputation for getting things done.

I’m frequently asked to do more despite the fact that I’m already extremely busy, and the people who ask me already know this.  I find it flattering to be invited to serve on task forces, hiring committees, advisory boards, or consulting panels.  I love being involved in new things and working with different groups of people, but that does not mean that I will accept every invitation I receive.

There comes a time when you reach a point of diminishing returns, and your participation is no longer effective, and the quality of your contribution begins to suffer. You’ll be doing yourself and the people you work with a disservice if you allow yourself to get to that point. You need to scale back and realize that it is far better to do a few things extremely well than many things poorly. So, while it might be tempting to accept new challenges, tasks, and projects, be very selective about them, and set a limit as to how many you will be involved in.

Besides, if you say yes to everything, you’ll soon realize that your work has taken over your entire schedule to the detriment of your personal and family life. So, learn to say no!

 

5. Get Efficient – Use Technology

There was a time when an organizer or a Filofax were the best tools available to stay organized, but times have changed and so must we. There are far more efficient tools available than the traditional organizer to help us stay connected and organized. Each of these digital tools has their pros and cons, so you’ll need to evaluate each one and see what works best for your needs.  I personally prefer keeping things simple and consolidated. This is why Google and their products are my first level of organization. They’re easy to use, and they beautifully sync with my smart-phone.

Here’s a list of some of the technology that I personally use to stay organized:

  • Google Calendar: I love this calendar because it offer so many features. I’m able to easily schedule events and tasks, share them with people, and add a video call to future meetings. I also love the calendar’s search feature. It makes it super easy to locate past or future events. I no longer have to flip through pages in a traditional calendar to find stuff.
  • GMAIL: Although I have a “.edu” email for work purposes, Gmail allows me to create multiple outgoing email addresses and canned responses.  So, I can actually send emails from my work email address through GMAIL. I use the canned response plugin when responding to FAQ type of emails, like requests for recommendation letters from students. Canned responses allow me to create a response and save it so that I can reuse it in the future at the click of a button rather than retyping out emails over and over again.
  • Google Hangouts: Scheduling meetings with faculty, staff, or students can be a challenge given each person’s availability, geographic location, and access to a meeting or conference room to meet in.  When possible, I now schedule my meetings through Google Hangouts. It allows me and the group who I am meeting with to meet online regardless of where we are located. As long as you have a broadband connection, a web cam and a microphone you can hold a virtual meeting. Hangouts include some amazing features that allow you to: share files, text chat, share access to a Google Drive, and record and publish the meeting to YouTube if you choose to.  It takes a little bit of time in the beginning to get people used to using it, but once they’ve used it a few times, you’ll find that it is a huge time saver and very convenient.  You don’t even need a computer to hold a Google Hangouts meeting, you can do it from a smart-phone, although I personally prefer using a computer.

So, to recap the five tips that will help you better manage your time are:

  1. Get organized and declutter.
  2. Schedule everything.
  3. Plan ahead.
  4. Avoid overload.
  5. Get efficient-use technology.

If you found this post useful, I’d be grateful if you’d help spread the word by sharing this with friends or colleagues on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

Dr. Al-Malood
Dr. Fawaz Al-Malood is Founder | Blogger | Podcaster @ FacultyWorkshop.com. He is also a Professor and program director at a large community college in California.