Too much to do and too little time? Maybe you're doing something wrong? Take this time management advice: start managing time before it manages you.
Definition of Time Management
There's no concrete definition of time management. Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People suggests that a good time management definition must include doing the most important thing now. The only way to do that is to distinguish between important things and urgent things.
Quadrant 1 contains items that are urgent and important:
Teachers in Quadrant 1 work hard, but not smart. Too much time in this quadrant leads to burnout and dissatisfaction. Although some Quadrant 1 activities are unavoidable, most can be handled easily with good planning.
Quadrant 2: Where You Want to Be Most of the Time
Quadrant 2 contains items that are not urgent, but important. Teachers who understand the importance of time management most often find themselves in quadrant 2. Creating A Class Discipline Plan Creating Unit Plans in Advance Sending Materials to be Copied Educating Students on Emergency Procedures Writing Instructions/Objectives on Board Locating Resources Building Relationships with Faculty, Students, and Parents
Quandrant 3 & 4
Activities that are urgent, yet not important reside in Quadrant 3: Answering the Phone Some Mail Some Meetings Some After School Activities Cleaning Up Minor Messes Complaining Busywork Quadrant 3 teachers need to feel important, so they pretend everything they do is important. They think they're in Quadrant 1, and because they are under the false impression that everything is important, they don't make it to Quadrant 2 where effective teachers reside. Items neither important nor urgent make up quadrant 4: Surfing the Internet Flirting with the Teacher Next Door Busywork Gossiping General Tomfoolery Quadrant 4 teachers used to be in Quadrants 1 and 3 until they burned out and realized they would get paid the same for doing nothing. They'd like to be effective in the classroom, but don't understand the benefits of Quadrant 2.
Many teachers think their managing time when in reality they're managing emergencies. These people refuse to take time management advice because they're too busy.
These teachers complain a lot about how hard their job is and how little they get paid. Their job is hard because they spend most of it in handling “emergencies.” These teachers burn out quickly. They swear at copy machines five minutes before class and rummage through filing cabinets half way through the period, desperate for a time-filler, fearful of student rebellion.
They’re too busy to make lesson plans, can never find anyone to fix their computer, yet they easily find someone to complain to about being too busy and not being able to find anyone to fix their computer. Their classes begin late and end early. All teachers find themselves managing emergencies from time to time, and that’s OK. If you find yourself constantly managing emergencies, however, it’s time to change.
Learn from My Experience
During my first few years teaching I really needed help in this area. I worked harder than my students and harder than my colleagues. I never had time to build relationships with coworkers. I always went home exhausted and frustrated. No matter how hard I tried to get ahead, I fell further behind. Although I really needed a vacation, I graded papers all weekend and slept during holidays.
I struggled settling down students and beginning class on time. I failed to engage students for the entire period. Why was I working so hard and getting nothing accomplished?
Because I was so overwhelmed with work, I started neglecting my personal life. The first thing to go was exercise. The next thing to go was good eating habits. The third thing to go was my social life. The fourth thing to go was my sanity. Luckily I found a mentor who gave me some advice and pointed me toward managing time more effectively.
Effective teachers find themselves in Quadrant 2 most of the time. A solution for all Quadrant 1 problems exists in Quadrant 2. A Quadrant 2 teacher formulates a discipline plan and clearly explains it to his students. A Quadrant 2 teacher builds a relationship with the dean, asks her for suggestions, and offers some of his own. If a student disrupts class, the situation is handled systematically and class continues. In the same situation, a Quadrant 1 teacher panics, spends 12 minutes looking for a referral form, writes it incorrectly, and complains to other teachers how bad the dean is for wanting the referral to be written correctly. A Quadrant 2 teacher makes a rubric for each important assignment, making slight modifications each year if necessary. Students in a Quadrant 2 class know exactly what is expected of them because the teacher has made it clear. When grades are assigned, there are no arguments or complaints. A Quadrant 1 teacher is too busy to make a rubric and spends thrice the amount of time explaining the assignment. Students forget what they're supposed to do, turn in garbage, and argue with the teacher about the grade. A Quadrant 2 teacher creates a curriculum map, aligned with state, national, and district objectives, making only slight modifications each year. He uses the map as a guide to form lesson plans and unit plans well in advance. A Quadrant 1 teacher doodles a lesson plan while driving to work, runs off copies before class, and complains that his students are lazy and unprepared. A Quadrant 2 teacher enjoys himself. His classes run smoothly and he never gossips or gripes. He rarely spends long hours on campus after school unless he is coaching or mentoring. A Quadrant 2 teacher maximizes his time, puts first things first, easily handles his duties, and goes home to what’s truly important.
Working Harder... Not Smarter
Often found laboring in their classrooms long after their colleagues have left, Quadrant 3 teachers need to feel important, so they live in a world where everything is important. They are slaves to interruption, don’t know how to say “no,” and refuse to delegate even the simplest of tasks. Quadrant 3 teachers believe the school would fall apart if they ever left. Quadrant 3 teachers frequently visit Quadrant 1 and can be found bragging about how they put John Q Student in his place for misbehaving. They love unfolding their wisdom to equally stressed out Quadrant 1 teachers. They resent Quadrant 2 teachers and detest Quadrant 4 teachers. Quadrant 3 teachers have completely lost touch with why they teach. They feel frustrated, lack self esteem, and really want someone to appreciate them. They secretly harbor a desire to leave the profession because they see no sense in working hard and being poor the rest of their lives. How to Get Out of Quadrant 3 Quadrant 3 activities consist of things that are urgent but not important. Answering the telephone, checking your voicemail, talking to colleagues, attending unnecessary meetings are some examples. Try these simple techniques to get out of Quadrant 3: Turn off your cell phone. Lock your classroom door when appropriate. Schedule your priorities. Find polite ways to say no. If someone is interrupting you while you're working, stand up. It's like magic. If they don't leave, walk to the door. If someone asks you how you're doing in the hall, say "great!" and keep on moving. Come in early when nobody's around. Ask yourself if there's something more important you could be doing. Delegate menial tasks. Take care of personal and financial issues at home.
Know When You Need Help: Does This Sound Like You?
Few teachers begin in Quadrant 4. They end up there after too many days in Quadrant 1 and too many evenings in Quadrant 3. They are the burnouts. Some fake work out of embarrassment. No longer slaves to urgent demands, they sometimes transition to Quadrant 2. This is rare. They soon discover they can get paid the same amount for doing nothing. Quadrant 4 teachers can be found in the parking lot as the buses leave for the day. They make frequent appearances on the teacher’s forum, eager to lampoon their colleagues. They always seem to know some big secret about investing, business, the Internet, or the Dominican Republic that will allow them to retire at 45. They never do. Many teachers don't realize they're in Quadrant 4. Here are some signs: You have video game websites bookmarked on your work computer You seem to have more free time during the school year than you do during the summer You haven't graded a paper since 1993 You haven't written a lesson plan since 1992 You only know half your students' names by mid-January You're dating your student aide Your gradebook is missing an entire class Students ditch biology and show up in your class Your teaching license expired last Tuesday You know more subs than Jared You almost got hit by a bus walking to your car after school You almost got hit by a bus walking to your room this morning You have Netflix delivered to your classroom Although your students can't read, they have every Disney movie memorized You're reading this when you should be preparing students for proficiency exams You're writing this when you should be preparing students for proficiency exams. Your idea of technology in the classroom is online poker and and a DVD player. If this list sounds more like you than you would care to admit, start working on getting out of this quadrant now! Do any of you have time management tips that could help?