Time to Organize & Prioritize
How is it some people seem to get it all done? What is the secret to great time management?
There is never enough time. Lesson planning, learning new skills, being creative, grading, analyzing data, putting up bulletin boards, and everything else takes time.
The secret is to be highly effective. There are two main steps that must be accomplished to be truly effective.
Step 1: Organization
The importance of being organized cannot be overstated! Being organized saves time immediately. When you know where everything is, you don’t have to look for it. Obvious? Of course, but it takes a conscious effort to always put everything in its place immediately. Other benefits of being organized include increasing creativity. When you can find your resources easily, it is much easier to make great plans using them. This opens up your opportunities to try new concepts and methodologies.
How you decide to organize your resources and papers depends on what works best for you. I have my own personal preferences. For instance, I have always placed overhead transparencies in sheet protectors categorized in binders. However, now that I use a digital projector that method is no longer useful. So I updated my organizational schema.
I’m like most educators with a tech background. I find deals. I find deals everywhere. Even if it’s to save a few bucks on new hosting – I’ll wait for the HostGator Cyber Monday Deal 2016 and get the hosting I need from Hostgator then, just so I can spend the rest on a new monitor, for example. I also collect. I collect everything that can possibly be used for educational purposes. My house is sparse and neat, but my classroom began to look like a hoarder’s den. I had baggies of cork tops for science experiments to study how a compass works, tons of resource books from the local teacher store, enough student chapter books to open my own county library, and an abundance of office supplies for student use.
I hate mess. So I rented a storage unit to rotate materials as needed. I kept topics stored in plastic storage bins. Each summer I told myself that I was going to sort through everything and reduce my collection. By the time summer came, vacation was welcomed. Suddenly a new school year was beginning.
This summer I finally began to sort and reduce. I thought it would only take three weeks. I was wrong.
I have wonderful resources. One of my challenges has been that paper-based resources require some form of storage which takes up space. Plus it can be challenging to find the resource you want quickly. To add to issues, I like my originals kept in pristine condition. My helpers over the years have not always been as careful as I am. Materials have been lost or damaged.
My solution: transferring to digital materials. Still, I love binders. However, now I create digital binders. Just as before, I still color code to make finding materials easier.
There are many ways to create digital copies. Scanners come in all sizes. For years I have been using the app CamScanner. (CamScanner for Android) (CamScanner for Apple products). For a product you use on your phone or tablet, it is wonderful. Scanner apps provide an excellent way to scan in a worksheet so you can review it with the students.
However, if you are transferring large quantities of material, a portable app isn’t going to suffice. That’s why I purchased a Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 scanner that can process multiple pages at a time. The feeder can hold about 50 pages. I love my scanner! It came with a bundled software package that creates digital binders for my materials. Now it is so easy to find my resources. Everything is organized neatly. Plus I have the ease of using keyword searches to find related items. I am so impressed by this scanner, that I added it to the products available on this site!
After I complete creating a binder, I upload it to Evernote (Evernote app for iOS) so that I have access to my materials everywhere I go. Now I have easy access to all of my paper materials without the clutter. Also, Evernote provides a safe backup solution. Fujitsu also provides a free online storage option.
Going digital has provided multiple bonuses. First, it is easier to find materials; second, there is no need to physically store them; third, I have more space; and fourth, I no longer have to manage extra copies. If I need another copy, I can quickly print it out. The amount of time saved is incredible!
I also love the fact that I have access to my resources at all times. No longer do I have to have to carry my materials back and forth between work and home.
Step 2: Evaluate & Prioritize
Step back for a moment, and truly think about what is the point of the activities you do. Is each one important?
For instance, suppose you grade the student journals weekly. Will the feedback from grading the journal make a significant difference in student understanding? Maybe, it is better to do a quick walk-by while students work to note if they are completing work, but save the time grading for lesson segments that are more meaningful.
Determine what are your priorities for each week. Then analyze your lessons, assessment methods, and focus to make sure they are effective and useful. A single question on an exit ticket that takes one minute to assess can often be more useful than a 20 question test that you don’t grade for two weeks.
Plan the week’s activities on Friday of the previous week. Take one hour to analyze your plans for effectiveness. This one hour of strategic planning will save you hours of unnecessary work and will allow you to start on Monday feeling fresh and prepared.
The concept of effectiveness is to complete what is necessary using the least amount of time and energy. Eliminate the rest. Simplify. For instance, as an undergrad I studied Manufacturing Engineering, and one of my courses was about process management. In process management, movement analysis is a key factor in maximizing efficiency. If a worker spends two minutes completing a task, in one hour, he will complete the task 30 times. However, if the movement required to complete the task is reduced allowing for the task to be completed in 1 minute, the same worker can now complete the task 60 times. By reducing the required amount of movement, the efficiency is greatly increased. The same concept can be applied to any field.
What can you simplify? How can you reduce the time it takes to complete the same task? Streamline.
You will appreciate it, and so will your students.
Typically, by streamlining and prioritizing, goals are clarified. Student learning increases. Effectiveness improves. By increasing effectiveness, not only will you be more successful at work, but you will find more time to enjoy life outside of work.