A frequent complaint of center directors is not having enough time. Everyone has unique and distinct life goals but few of us feel we have enough time to carefully and consciously balance work, family, and personal priorities. Time management becomes an issue.
What gets in the way of your being as effective as you would like in managing your time? Is it interruptions from staff and parents? Situations with children that require your assistance? Phone calls? Paperwork and reporting deadlines?
Time management is all about making the most effective use of your time and working smarter, not harder. It requires planning, and then sticking to the plan – and that takes discipline. Time efficiency involves two issues: your priorities and your schedule. Examine your priorities and write them down. Your priorities will guide how you can best use your time.
Making some simple changes to your time management could make all the difference to the amount of work you are actually accomplishing. Here are some strategies:
- Get a good start. Being relaxed at the start of the morning should carry through the day. Start your day by spending five to ten minutes planning your activities for the day.
- Put good systems in place. Being organized and having a good system for filing emails, computer documents and papers will save you many valuable hours in the long run – so spend some time initially setting up your systems, then you won’t have to worry about it.
- Make a to-do list. To-do lists are your best friend. They can increase your productivity by 20 per cent, help to clear your mind, and save you energy and stress. Write out your tasks, then break down large or complex tasks into smaller sections and group them into manageable units that don’t feel too overwhelming. Focus on one at a time. As you complete your tasks, cross them off. You’re making progress, and it’s a great feeling!
- Prioritize tasks. There’s a good chance you won’t get everything on your to-do list done, but make sure you get the most important things done. That means you have to prioritize the tasks on your list and figure out what is most important, as well as most urgent (not necessarily the same thing).
- Make a schedule. Using your to-do list and priorities as a starting point, make a schedule for the day and for the week. The schedule needs to be realistic, with flexibility for interruptions and unscheduled events. Be careful not to overschedule. Having a schedule means you won’t have to waste time and energy thinking about what you have to do next – just follow your schedule.
- Take regular breaks. Breaks will keep your mind fresh and you will be able to return to your work with better focus. Take a few minutes to walk around, get away from your desk, and you will return to your tasks with a little more sight of the end product and what needs to be done. If you work straight through, you will put in more hours but work less productively.
- Manage your emails and phone calls. For many, emails and phone calls constitute the single biggest obstacle to effective time management. Read and respond to emails and phone calls in blocks only a few times a day so you’re not constantly changing what you’re doing and breaking up your day.
- Determine your prime time. Block off the time when you are most energized and creative. Use this time for high priority projects that require thoughtful analysis rather than routine tasks.
- Keep a time log. You might find it useful to track your daily activities and how much time each takes. This will help you analyze where your time is going. You might be surprised by how much time certain tasks actually take or how much time is wasted in ways you didn’t even realize. Being aware of these factors will help you better manage your time.
- Delegate effectively. Effective leaders know how to motivate others to help get work done. Delegating maximizes efficiency and increases the ability to get more done in less time. The art of delegating involves carefully organizing the task, stating your expectations, and providing feedback from a distance. Be available if needed, but consistently communicate your trust that the job will be done independently and successfully. This builds confidence in the staff to whom the tasks have been delegated.
Time management is a skill.
Like any new skill it takes time and commitment to develop. Knowing how to make the most of your time is essential to you, your center, and your work/life balance. So put these tips to work and take control of your time and your life! Learn about our business tools that can maximize your productivity and efficiency.