Tag Archives: time management

Time management in higher ed

clock free to useOne of the scarcest resources for leaders in higher education is time. At any given moment, we are usually balancing, at the least, something that needs to be done immediately, something that someone else is waiting for, an upcoming meeting, and several urgent emails. That doesn’t even count making steps toward the important goals that keep sliding to the back burner.

According to Microsoft Education, time management means that a leader “uses his or her time effectively and efficiently; concentrates his or her efforts on the most important priorities; and adeptly handles several tasks at once.”  If you haven’t checked out their competency model for education leaders, it’s worth a visit. The time management description includes questions for self-reflection and applicant interviews, a bibliography, and suggested development activities to include on a professional development plan. Here’s an example of self-assessment questions:

  • When reviewing my daily and weekly schedule, do I allot ample time for the important and balance it with the urgent?
  • What future needs and events must I incorporate now into my long range plan?
  • Am I committed to saying “no” to extraneous requests or to asking the requester to choose what they would like me to cancel or delay in favor of their request?
  • Am I committed to staying on track with my schedule, cutting conversations or tasks short where necessary to move on?
  • Am I scheduling my time too tightly, not providing opportunity for personal interaction with others?
  • What tasks can I delegate to someone else?

The Chronicle of Higher Education published an essay focused on time management for new professors. It had some useful tips for all of us, including:

  • Be strategic about accepting committee work. Consider checking with your department head or a senior faculty member before accepting committee roles. In addition to having someone who can help protect your time, it also allows you breathing room to consider the request.
  • Make time to write (or address other back burner items). Break the task into small steps and schedule them in your planner. If possible, give yourself due dates such as presenting the concept to the leadership team at the spring retreat.
  • Develop time management go-to tricks.  The article described his strategies for course prep. What tasks do you do often, and what shortcuts can you use routinely?
  • Prioritize early and often.  Use some form of planner and include time for yourself, lunch with colleagues, and other activities that are flexible, but important. For example, I usually spend the last few minutes of each day reviewing my plans for tomorrow.

What do you do that  helps you manage your time effectively?

Dee Anne Bonebright

Doing “real” work

I recently ran across a book with the title Fake Work: Why People Are Working Harder than Ever but Accomplishing Less, and How to Fix the Problem. I have to confess that it went on my “so many books, so little time” pile. That probably says a lot right there.

mtg free to useThe idea of “fake” work is very compelling when we think about managing resources effectively.  According to Forbes author Dean Duncan, this work can be well intentioned, and it can lead to a lot of hard effort, but it is not clearly linked to an organization’s goals and objectives. It’s easy to think of examples in higher education – staff meetings that are held only because it’s tradition, collaborative meetings to decide on something that could have been delegated to a few experts,  travel time to in-person events that could have been held electronically, or reports that are generated even though the metrics are outdated.

Duncan provides some tips for ensuring that we as leaders, and the people we work with, are focusing on “real” work.

  1. Be strategic. Position descriptions and work assignments should clearly describe how the task is contributing to the organization’s purpose.
  2. Use meaningful metrics. Everyone should be on the same page about what success looks like and how it will be measured.
  3. Monitor busy-ness. When people are unclear about priorities, they can spend a lot of effort and energy on the wrong things. What has been done in the past that no longer needs to happen? Where are people doing lots of activity without generating concrete results?
  4. Communicate. A lot.  Treat communication as a key part of everyone’s role. Seek feedback to be sure you were understood and that you understand others.
  5. Understand yourself and others. The more you know about your own work style and that of your team members, the easier it will be to recognize tendencies to generate fake work.

If there is no clear link to strategy, no one is paying attention to outcomes, and it’s hard to figure out what you accomplished even though it took a long time — then consider whether the task needs to be done, or at least whether it can be done with fewer resources.

What’s an example of fake work that you’ve seen? How did you manage it?

Dee Anne Bonebright