You’re busy. Let’s admit it. You have so much to do. I get it. I’m impressed that you took the time out to read this article. I’d like to share a time management best practice from my newly released book Real Talk About Time Management: 35 Best Practices for Educators that you can implement immediately to help you feel more in control of your workload, and set you up for success, and maintain your personal sanity and balance. Let’s face it, in our profession when we show up to our classrooms balanced, in control of our workload, and working proactively rather than reactively we can better serve our students.
Is there a high-priority and perhaps time sensitive task that has been sitting on your desk, on your computer desktop, in a pile in the corner of the room or somewhere else in your classroom or home that literally feels like it has been haunting you? Are you secretly hoping this task just disappears or takes care of itself?
I’m going to get real with you.
The truth is that we will not get everything done in the school year so what needs to get done now? Time management can really be translated to priority management. Often, the reason we put off our most important task is because we don’t find that specific task enjoyable. However, this is the task that needs to get done and get done soon.
Or, we subconsciously choose to do more slightly enjoyable tasks that aren’t as important, eating up our limited and valuable time? I used to hate grading. Every semester, without fail, I would have a pile of essays ready to be graded only a night or two before the grades were due. This led to me spending less time than I would have liked on each of the essays, feedback that was not in depth, and one stressed out and sleep deprived teacher the day grades were due. Looking back, I would have done it differently. There’s a better way.
So, you know that egg or kitchen timer most of us have in our room that we use with our students to help them manage their time with in class work? We often use an egg or kitchen timer as a scaffold to keep our students on task and able to manage their time. However, it is also a valuable scaffold to help us manage our time when doing a task we do not want to do.
Using a timer to help us get started on paperwork, grading, or any other administrative task can transform a daunting feat into a manageable task, just done in smaller chunks. It actually forces us to get started on that task that needs to get done now.
So, here’s what you do.
Take that important task you’ve been putting off and set the timer to either 20, 30, or 60 minutes. You can do this in your classroom or at home, or both. It’s up to you. When the timer starts, you start doing the task. If you are interrupted, the phone rings, your partner walks in the room, your kids cry, an upset student walks into the room, a parent stops by, you simply do this: pause the timer. Be sure to keep the time. Just pause it.
Resume the time from where you left off when the interruption has ended. Do this and keep working until the time is finished.
Using this best practice also helps us more easily transition back into the task if we are interrupted since this practice also includes doing the task until the timer has elapsed.
Why do I suggest not using your cell phone timer? The benefit of using an egg or kitchen timer is that you are not on your cell phone, or vulnerable to all the distractions that come with turning on a cell phone. If you do use your cell phone timer, it is recommended that you turn it to airplane mode. We are subconsciously programmed to want to check our emails, social media notification, and return texts and calls when we physically touch our phones.
You may actually find that you have gained a bit of momentum with the task and want to keep going after the time has finished. Good for you! Go for it!
You may find that you only have time for the chunk of time you set on your timer. That’s fine, too. Keep using that timer when you find yourself having a little trouble getting started and you will find the task is eventually done.