Time Management

A new discovery about time management: It is worth your time to take ten minutes at the start of the day to plan what you are accomplishing that day. I have now done this for eight or ten work-days running, and I find that if I set aside time to get specific tasks done, they get done; if I don’t — things tend to spiral and I tend to wool-gather.

I find that it’s harder to plan for interruptions using this method, or to manage disappointment. I laid out time in my and Leah’s schedule to drive to Worcester for poetry on Sunday, but we were too tired to go. I laid out time on Monday for going to the Monday night reading, but discovered the reading was cancelled. Laying out time for those events made it harder to re-task, although I did. It felt like those things were rewards or positives for getting other jobs done, and not having them was quite difficult.

In today’s schedule, I had time set out for travel to and from our fencing match, and as a result I was able to say no to several requests for action that had to be addressed semi-immediately.

I also got run over by someone else’s schedule snafu. is coming to my school on Friday, and I’ve spent several days talking to and managing all the relevant issues — who to talk to about payment, who would want him in classes, and which rooms he should speak in. Today I received notice that senior administrators put someone else on the master schedule back in September — but didn’t send out a notice to us the teachers until today… , if you read this — you’re still welcome at the school, and you’ll get paid the same, but you probably don’t have to be here much before 9…. maybe 9:30. I’ll know more tomorrow.

So, time management is about scheduling the right number of chores and rewards, being flexible and dealing with other people’s schedule changes, and taking ten minutes a day to get your to-do list sorted by priority and fixed to actual specific times in your actual, specific day.

Any questions?

30 comments

  1. Absolutely. I find myself breaking some projects down into “Students- Class – last names A-F” rather than “Students – Class,” and allowing more time for “A-F” and “G-Z” each than I would if I lumped both of them together. Speaking of which, it’s time to do A-F now. 🙂

  2. The year and multi-year levels really scare me. I can see I’ve made some bad decisions at that level, which I need to fix somehow, months after the window of opportunity has closed.

  3. One of the stories from…

    One of the stories from First things first is about a time-management expert who fills a jar with big rocks, then smaller rocks, then gravel, then sand. One of his audience members, watching, says, “So you’re saying that there’s always more ways to cram things-to-be-done into your time?”

    And the expert says, “No, I’m saying you have to fit the big projects in first, just like these rocks. If you don’t fit the big things in first, you’ll never get them in afterward.”

  4. Re: Time Management Suggestions

    In general, this is all pretty good advice. I’m enjoying First Things First now. I think my biggest difficulty is the number of things built into my schedule which 1) have to get done but 2) aren’t really working to my core competencies. I think my school needs to take a time-management and communications course.

  5. Time Management Suggestions

    First – if you are planning things such that you are too tired to do the fun things in life, then you are trying to do too much. Reduce your expectations of yourself.

    Second – when something fun gets canceled and you can’t immediately replace it with something else fun, then move a work block of time into that place and immediately schedule something fun in the time slot you have freed up. Rules of thumb – don’t give up your downtime. It’s what makes you a reasonable person.

    Third – plan some wiggle time into each day. Add 5-10 minutes to each time estimate. You will finish early. If an emergency arises, then you have time to deal wtih it. If it doesn, then you have a little break time. Have a good book handy so you don’t waste your spare time wondering what fun thing you could do.

    Fourth – make a list of things that feed you – fun things. Categorize them by how long each one will take. Then, when you have a few spare moments, grab the list and do something from it that will take the amount of time you have available. If something on your list takes a long time (learning to play the piano like Billy Joel or planning a trip to Italy), then split it into smaller parts and do those as you have time.

    Fifth – Learn to say “no” more. Most people’s schedules spiral out of control because they take on other people’s responsibilities or take ownership of other people’s failure to plan. If you can say no when these things arise, then your life gets easier. Remember “a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

    Sixth – I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Stephen Covey’s First Things First and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Both of these will be of great use to you as you embrace this new concept.

    Seventh – There is no number seven.

  6. Time Management Suggestions

    First – if you are planning things such that you are too tired to do the fun things in life, then you are trying to do too much. Reduce your expectations of yourself.

    Second – when something fun gets canceled and you can’t immediately replace it with something else fun, then move a work block of time into that place and immediately schedule something fun in the time slot you have freed up. Rules of thumb – don’t give up your downtime. It’s what makes you a reasonable person.

    Third – plan some wiggle time into each day. Add 5-10 minutes to each time estimate. You will finish early. If an emergency arises, then you have time to deal wtih it. If it doesn, then you have a little break time. Have a good book handy so you don’t waste your spare time wondering what fun thing you could do.

    Fourth – make a list of things that feed you – fun things. Categorize them by how long each one will take. Then, when you have a few spare moments, grab the list and do something from it that will take the amount of time you have available. If something on your list takes a long time (learning to play the piano like Billy Joel or planning a trip to Italy), then split it into smaller parts and do those as you have time.

    Fifth – Learn to say “no” more. Most people’s schedules spiral out of control because they take on other people’s responsibilities or take ownership of other people’s failure to plan. If you can say no when these things arise, then your life gets easier. Remember “a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

    Sixth – I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Stephen Covey’s First Things First and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Both of these will be of great use to you as you embrace this new concept.

    Seventh – There is no number seven.

    • Re: Time Management Suggestions

      In general, this is all pretty good advice. I’m enjoying First Things First now. I think my biggest difficulty is the number of things built into my schedule which 1) have to get done but 2) aren’t really working to my core competencies. I think my school needs to take a time-management and communications course.

        • Re: Time Management Suggestions

          I brought into the office after his poetry gig here on Friday, and he made the same offer.

          The response was a huffy, “Well, send us some info and we’ll put it in the orientation file for faculty and students. We usually work on that in June and July, as we gear up to the new school year. Thanks for coming by and doing this poetry day for us. Have a safe drive home.”

          I don’t think they’re really interested in getting trained. The assumption among most of them is that they know exactly what they’re doing, and they don’t want any outsiders to tell them differently.

  7. I’m *gradually* working up to the year level, and there have proven to be a few things that are starting to really make sense for me to plan at the year and multi-year level. It’s a little scary, but also kind of cool, a way to see what kinds of progress I want to make overall.

  8. I’ve really found it worthwhile to lay things out, not just each day, but at the beginning of each week and each month. Set overall goals as well as the fine-grained ones. It’s cool to know that you’re getting the same positives on the daily basis.

    Plus, when I get a reward taken away from me for no reason I can effect, I usually make sure I schedule another one. Make sure I get my positive/rejuvination/re-sharpen time. I’ve had too many experiences with letting that go and then feeling depressed about life.

  9. I’ve really found it worthwhile to lay things out, not just each day, but at the beginning of each week and each month. Set overall goals as well as the fine-grained ones. It’s cool to know that you’re getting the same positives on the daily basis.

    Plus, when I get a reward taken away from me for no reason I can effect, I usually make sure I schedule another one. Make sure I get my positive/rejuvination/re-sharpen time. I’ve had too many experiences with letting that go and then feeling depressed about life.

    • I’m *gradually* working up to the year level, and there have proven to be a few things that are starting to really make sense for me to plan at the year and multi-year level. It’s a little scary, but also kind of cool, a way to see what kinds of progress I want to make overall.

      • The year and multi-year levels really scare me. I can see I’ve made some bad decisions at that level, which I need to fix somehow, months after the window of opportunity has closed.

        • Keep the End in Mind

          Seems like you’re doing a Covey-type thing, given the title of the class you’re talking about…

          I liked that in the Seven habits, he fits the First Things First within the framework of “Keep the End in Mind” and being proactive. Thinking about the doing to know what it is you’re doing before you do it. 🙂 Who knew self-awareness could be so complex? Hee.

          What’s really been scary has been going through the whole exercise of what do I really want to have accomplished at the end of my life? At a 80-year-old roast, or at my funeral, what do I really want to have done, what do I want people to say about me? The goals that pop out of that, the boulders involving decades, just amaze me. Especially the parent-related ones. My.

          Anyway, yes. 🙂 It’s good to see someone else walking this particular path and to see what you learn is going to be cool, too.

        • Re: Keep the End in Mind

          Well, it’s not a class, really. It’s me being desperate enough to go out and buy a few books on management and organization, and try to get organized. And yes, who knew self-awareness could be so complex?

          I haven’t done any of his exercises yet. I really wanted to read the books first, and get a sense of what fit where. A friend of mine has written a similar book, but it also includes how to make effective and creative choices within multiple domains, across circles of concern and interest and focus. It’s been an interesting ride.

    • One of the stories from…

      One of the stories from First things first is about a time-management expert who fills a jar with big rocks, then smaller rocks, then gravel, then sand. One of his audience members, watching, says, “So you’re saying that there’s always more ways to cram things-to-be-done into your time?”

      And the expert says, “No, I’m saying you have to fit the big projects in first, just like these rocks. If you don’t fit the big things in first, you’ll never get them in afterward.”

    • Living where I work…

      Living where I work means that I don’t get enough sharpen time, or at least I don’t think I do. But I’ve discovered that by adding in some time in the mornings to do my journal, I can create some sharpening time. The Tai chi every day helps, too.

      Some days, though, there’s not enough reward time, and not enough down time in the week to schedule reward time.

  10. Have you ever noticed how time management makes you much more honest?

    What I mean is, you actually look at how long a task takes.

    Like this: you realise that a “run to the store” almost never only takes 15 minutes.

    So when you do time management, you really look at how long it takes you.

    Well, 10 min to the store & 10 min back already puts you at 20 mins. If you know what you want, the run through can take as short as 5 but as long as 15. Waiting in line, depends on the time of day, but can be as short as 5 min but as long as 15.

    So there’s no moree “running to the store, be back in 15” its “going to do shopping, be back in an hour”

    which is far more accurate.

  11. Have you ever noticed how time management makes you much more honest?

    What I mean is, you actually look at how long a task takes.

    Like this: you realise that a “run to the store” almost never only takes 15 minutes.

    So when you do time management, you really look at how long it takes you.

    Well, 10 min to the store & 10 min back already puts you at 20 mins. If you know what you want, the run through can take as short as 5 but as long as 15. Waiting in line, depends on the time of day, but can be as short as 5 min but as long as 15.

    So there’s no moree “running to the store, be back in 15” its “going to do shopping, be back in an hour”

    which is far more accurate.

    • Absolutely. I find myself breaking some projects down into “Students- Class – last names A-F” rather than “Students – Class,” and allowing more time for “A-F” and “G-Z” each than I would if I lumped both of them together. Speaking of which, it’s time to do A-F now. 🙂

    • You were AWESOME on Friday. Here it is Sunday, and some kids are still talking about it.

      Oh, and the consensus is that you won the slam. Not me.

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