- Time is a gift. Time is constant. Everyone has the same amount of time in a day.
- There are 6 P’s to time management with related tips: Prioritize your list by making a T-chart with must-do and want to do tasks, Plan breaks or chunk tasks, Play before you work, Procrastinate no more, Perfectionism and letting go, and spend 30 minutes every day for your Passion Project time.
For decades, many have asked for my time management tips, “Where do you find the time to do all of the things that you do?” My response? I make time. Well, not that I actually make time. I wish I could have the superpower to actually make more time or have the ability to freeze it so I can have more. The reality is that even if I had more time, I would likely find more things to fill it!
Time is constant
How many times have you heard someone say, “If I only had more time” or “I don’t have time for that.” The hard truth is that we all have the same amount of hours in a day, minutes in an hour, and seconds in a minute. Time is constant. It does not change or vary for any of us. So what is different for us all is what we do with that time. How is it that some people appear to accomplish more in the same time frame than others? What’s their secret?
We often find time to do things that hold value in our hearts. There appears to be enough for things such as time spent with family, reading, exercising, walking the dog, vacations, etc. So how is it we have time for these activities? We’ve made it a priority. We make time. Most things I listed are preferred activities. They provide us with more pleasure than pain, hopefully! So, how do we manage our time for activities that we may not hold as much value but still need to be done?
The 6 P’s to time management tips
- Prioritize your list
- Play before you work
- Procrastinate no more
- Perfectionism and letting go
- Passion Project time
Time management tips: Prioritize your list
How many times have you heard this as a time management strategy? We may know it but do we do it? How do you prioritize? I generally prioritize based on timelines and deadlines. If you are like me, you have too many items on your list with limited time to do it all. Accept that fact but now what? Don’t let that “I don’t have enough time” mindset immobilize you. Instead, embrace it by dividing the list to clarify how best to spend time on what is a priority.
TIP: Start with a T-chart, differentiate between “Need to Do” and “Want to Do” (like things that can wait based on timeline). Using this framework quickly reveals my priorities and where I need to focus my energy first. Making any list, especially a prioritized one, helps because I no longer need to hold it in my brain and it makes my path clearer.
Time management tips: Plan
Now that I’ve determined what needs to be completed first, I assess time and do a reality check. I consider work duration (approximately how long a task may take) and how much time I really have to work. I also assess my brainpower at the moment. Do I have the energy and stamina to complete the item on my checklist? You know yourself best so ask, “What’s my working stamina? Where do I work best?” Understanding ourselves makes a difference in figuring out how we manage our time.
There are two ways to approach task planning.
TIP #1: Schedule a break so you can stay sharp and focused on the target of completing the task. This helps because we set our minds to work for a manageable period of time. If you work too long, attention may wane and distractions come easily. That’s when you stop to take a break so you can come back refreshed and ready to be efficient with your time again! Remember, it’s about efficiency. Know your limitations!
TIP #2: As part of your plan, break up the task into bite-sized pieces. This is exactly what we do with our students when we chunk the work to make it manageable. Learn to understand your stamina. It’s like running short sprints rather than a long marathon. For many of us, our mind and body can manage short runs better than marathons. Well mine, anyway! I know I’m not alone when I say I love to write to-do lists and check off boxes when completed. Our brains love the dopamine hit when we accomplish tasks! More small tasks equal more things to check off! That fuels us to keep going.
Time management tips: Play before you work
In my class, our days begin with a soft start. I call it Flex Time. Students are given approximately 15 minutes first thing every morning to reconnect with friends and engage in activities they prefer like socializing as they play with Lego or games, build and create with varied materials, draw, or read. I found this to be such a valuable time to have conversations with my students as I reconnect, do my daily check-ins, and build relationships. Students not only build relationships but they are much more ready to learn because they are happy! It’s something they look forward to every day.
TIP: Just like kids, we need time to play. Schedule time to relax and play (or do a preferred activity) to fill your mind, heart, and soul first so you can be more alert, engaged, and ready to work effectively.
Time management tips: Procrastinate no more
How many times do you find yourself working on preferred versus non-preferred tasks? Sometimes we tend to complete preferred tasks first because we enjoy it more, which leaves tasks that are less desirable in comparison when we least feel like doing them. Enter procrastination and time spent on other things to psych ourselves up first.
TIP: Complete non-preferred tasks first to get them out of the way AND do not attach a negative mindset or feeling to the task. When my son had chores or homework he was not excited about, he was the king of procrastination. I often told him there are some things that simply must be done regardless of what we think or how we feel about it. Do not attach any negativity to it (for example, “I don’t like it” or “I don’t want to do it”) but rather, it is something I GET to do for my family. This mindset helped me move from a negative to a positive one, especially with doing laundry!
Time management tips: Perfectionism and letting go
This is a hard one for me. Time management is about efficiency and how you use time. I have a tendency to spend too much time on things that won’t make a huge difference in the end. This happens often when a task involves communication through writing. For example, it may take me 15 minutes to write my first draft but 2-3 times more (or longer!) to edit and revise for the pursuit of perfectionism. I so often have to remind myself that it’s good enough and pretty “perfect” already. It doesn’t need to be 100% perfect! Our standards are likely much higher than it needs to be. I’m still working on this and learning that 90% is pretty awesome already so I’m learning to let go in order to gain back time!
TIP: Many of us are perfectionists so recognize some things just don’t need that kind of perfection. If you worked hard on completing a task, trust in your quality of work. When done, feel good you put forth your best effort or “Today’s Best” (an awesome idea I learned from Rae Hughart), give yourself some grace, and enjoy that extra time for other things.[scroll down to keep reading]
Time management tips: Passion Project time
Managing time “right” should afford us the luxury to feel better about setting aside time for our Passion Projects. Recently, I learned about spending 30 minutes a day on something we are passionate about. This time allotment equals just over 2% of your day. That’s it! Isn’t something you are passionate about worth 2% of your day? On Brendan Burchard’s podcast, The Brendon Show, he talks about making a commitment to this and to finding an accountability partner to support you. His episode is called How to Achieve an Action Mindset and Stay Disciplined. While I am still working on this, I am thrilled to report that making the commitment and sharing it with accountability partners made me spend a lot more time on my Passion Projects than ever before!
TIP: Allot 30 minutes a day for something you are passionate about. Carve out time for Passion Projects and add to your calendar!
The gift of time
Time is a gift. Time management is about efficiency and the ability to focus and be productive. Every day, you are given the gift of 24 hours to spend how you wish. It’s an art to find the right blend of time to do things we need to do and want to do. How will you choose to use this gift today?
If you use the Grid Method, you are already familiar with giving students the job of moving themselves along and tracking their own progress. But even if you’re not a GM user, you can still give students this type of responsibility on a smaller scale. Have your students set personal goals for themselves—things they are trying to accomplish or you want them to accomplish on their own? If you feel comfortable relinquishing some control to them, it will save you a ton of time! Come up with a way to have them document or record their progress. On the whole, the students are very honest. As a teacher, you will know if something looks fishy, and you can always do spot checks to make sure they are being truthful. Overall, however, the students love to take on the responsibility, and it takes one thing off of your plate! It’s a great way to build trusting relationships. – Becky Thal, 5th grade math/science teacher in New Jersey (@MrsRThal)
ABOUT LIVIA CHAN
Livia Chan is an educator passionate about community, teaching, leading, and lifelong learning. She truly believes in the power of connection and thoroughly enjoys building relationships by reaching out with kindness and gratitude. Livia lives by the belief that it is through every interaction that we have the opportunity to appreciate and uplift others to help make their day a brighter one. Her other passions include family and ringette, which she is heavily involved in as a volunteer coach, Executive member, referee, and player.
For over 20 years, Livia has continued to experience the joy of teaching in the Greater Vancouver area in BC, Canada and loves her role as a Head Teacher and classroom teacher. She previously served on the District Staff Development Team in Learning Technologies supporting K-12 educators. Currently, Livia is honored to be the Digital Content Editor and Ambassador for the Teach Better Team and loves being a part of this family! Her motto is “Working together to better ourselves, each other, and the world around us.”