Over my entire career, but even more so in the past several years I have continued to push myself to learn and grow. I realized a while ago I would not be able to do everything, nor could I learn everything. Instead, I made it a point to focus on the things I needed or that I was most passionate about learning. Doing so has lead me to some incredible experiences. In the past few months, I have heard more than ever before, “I don’t know how you do all that you are doing!” I am by no means the busiest person I know, nor the most accomplished.
It made me think more about the “how” in what I have been doing rather than the “what” or the “why”. I have talked on social media, at conferences, and in general discussions, about the need for kids to learn time management. As someone who struggled with many executive functioning skills as a child (organization, time management, and more) I have repeatedly called for the scaffolding and building of these skills. The “how” in creating that is the subject of other posts, and possibly many other ways of sharing.
Instead, I am focussing on the “how” of getting things done as an adult, a full time educator, and a full time parent. Getting things done comes down to two things, time management and wanting to get them done. You cannot learn the desire, but you can learn the time management.
Being an effective manager of my time starts with a few simple things. First I start with some questions:
- What is the most important thing/things I need to do today?
- This typically involves my family or my job, or both.
- What times do these things need to happen?
- We ask this for 2 reasons
- 1. If it is the most important thing it is going to get done regardless of whatever else I put on my schedule.
- 2. I don’t want to assume I will get anything else done during those times.
- We ask this for 2 reasons
- What other projects am I currently working on that I need to fit into my schedule?
- I typically have 6-10 different projects I am working on at a time. Some of them have long term deadlines, others have no deadlines. Occasionally they have a short turn around.
- What part of that project can I achieve?
- It is good to look at how I can break a project into smaller parts. I cannot accomplish an entire project in the short periods of time that I typically get to work on these “non-essential” projects. They need to broken down into smaller tasks.
- Accomplishing a small task gives a sense of accomplishment and moving forward in a project rather than one of procrastinating. I am not putting a project off, I am making small but steady progress toward my goals.
- Do I have all the things I need to complete this part of my project?
- If yes, I have no reason to put it off. In the one or more hours I can devote to ancillary projects during a given day, I make sure that I work on that task for some amount of time.
This is just a simple process that takes place in my head at all times. Today, my goals included getting a new blog post up, reading some of a draft manuscript for a friend, and completing some paperwork. The most important things on my schedule were to spend quality time with my family (which took place from the time my daughter woke up, until the time she went to bed) and to get a few items from the store to be ready for the week. Once both of those were accomplished I was able to write a blog post, read a few chapters of the manuscript, and even enjoyed time for some relaxation (watching a movie.) I found I was unable to complete the paperwork because the site required it be completed before I was able to start. That changed what I could accomplish and thus I now adjust where that goes during my week.
All of this seems simple, but really working to manage time is difficult. I still sometimes fail to successfully juggle all the things. Setbacks don’t mean I stop picking up the balls and tossing them. I do not claim to be an expert on time management, and I marvel at people doing far more than myself. Having multiple people comment on how I do “so much” simply made me reflect and take a closer look at a process that I have internalized. Perhaps it will cause others to reflect on what they do to make sure they can “do all the things?”