“How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss
As a new academic year approaches, there is excitement and much anticipation about what lies ahead, but with this new season can come a fair amount of stress. Too much to do and limited time to do it in. Since we cannot manufacture more time the next best thing is a few ways we can make our time more effectively and less stressful.
Just Do It
Training ourselves to be disciplined can come in the form of sitting down in a distraction-free place and doing the required task(s). Whether it is grading papers or prepping for tomorrow’s lecture, help yourself from putting things off by setting up a specific time and place to tackle the task at hand. Scheduling this for yourself can help put you in the right frame of mind and let you buckle down and avoid any impulse to procrastinate.
Use Your “Lost Time”
Taking advantage of the “lost time” that exists in your day-to-day life. For example, lost time might be found between class lectures or prior to department meetings or training. Use this otherwise lost time to do small, manageable tasks like alphabetize papers, enter grades, or review lecture notes. While typically only snippets, the lost time you gain back for small tasks can add up and help you catch-up on some of the nitty-gritty tasks you’ve been putting on the backburner.
Do the Worst First
On any given day, most people have a list of items to complete or tasks they want to accomplish for the day. To reduce your stress load, tackle the most dreaded of tasks first rather than last. When the worst task is prioritized, you can not only get it out of the way, but you will also feel a sense of accomplishment that will help motivate you to finish everything else on your to-do list. This approach can help ameliorate stress and make your daily plan less overwhelming.
Just like we teach our students, calendarizing major assignments, events, and upcoming tasks can help ensure we stay on track. At the beginning of the semester, write down the deadline for any important tasks you need to accomplish or turn in. Writing down that deadline helps commit the task to memory and lets us feel a sense of accomplishment once we complete our work down the road.
Planning and Prioritizing
Some people love to plan, and some do not. Regardless of which category you fall into, there is something to be said for at least outlining our workday as an exercise in time management. At the beginning of each morning assess what must be accomplished for the day. You can also do this on a weekly or monthly basis. Determine which deadlines are approach and prioritize your time – do grades or assignments need to be turned back over to students quickly? Is a deadline for a conference proposal coming up? Do you need to collect assessment data for your department? Whatever the task at hand might be, outline how much time you have in the upcoming day, week, or month. Then assign time for yourself to work on these activities in the order you deem most urgent.
While there are many ways to manage your time and reduce overall stress, finding the tips and tricks that work best for you is the key. Best of luck!