Spend time planning:
I have the freedom to plan my days in the way that best meets my needs. Colors and a larger font help me plan on the computer. I use a planning tool for my basic schedule for a week. My daily plan begins with email reading and responding. Although I check my various email accounts right before I go to bed, someone somewhere has been up while I was asleep communicating digitally with me. Currently I have students in the PDT, MDT, CDT and Mexico and India time zones. I do not even try to keep up with exactly what those international zone are. I just know that as I am going to bed, my students in India are doing virtual classwork. If I were not to tackle the emails first, there is no telling what fires I would have to put out later. There is a time for grading. Then the time for calling students and parents is later than I would like for my schedule, but it is dictated by the various time zones I deal with.
The plan includes going outside with my doggie, and eating breakfast and lunch. The place where I am negligent and trying to change, is just getting up from the computer and walking around for a few minutes. I tend to get so focused on the task at hand that I don’t stop frequently enough. This is a piece of the plan I am working on. I am considering using the alarm on my smartphone to give me reminders.
Sometimes other forces try to set a person’s priorities, but in the long run I am the one who has to prioritize for myself. Sometimes that is circumvented when a supervisor puts a task on my plate and tells me that it has priority for that time. That does not happen often, so I have the task of determining the value of various tasks and designating what is most important.
Do the right thing right (my right):
Here is where I follow a “road less traveled” in today’s digital world. I type on keyboards and click on screens every day. I also use a reporter’s notebook and a pencil everyday. This started when I first began to teach online. I would look things up, a fact would emerge, a student’s need would pop up, I would get the parents’ phone number, and now I would have windows open everywhere with necessary pieces of my current puzzle to solve on different screens. I could not have each piece open and readable all at the same time. Then, I needed a log of what I was doing for verification and later on for reminders, So I use resources on my screen and jot my notes on the reporter’s notebook. It is just the right size to fit to the right of where I use my mouse. I buy these in packs with colored covers, If things are complex and I have school work going on and other issues related to my home and family, I keep two on the desk. One for school and one for everything else.
Now, I have folders and files, color-coded and appropriately arranged in my documents on my computer. However, I cannot count the number of times when I needed info quickly and flipping through my notebook with dated entries was a lifesaver. On the computer I can only narrow down naming entries in my documents to a certain point, and coming up with new names for files with such repetitive information becomes difficult. I keep all of these notebooks, they take up very little room, and they have been a saving grace many times. I believe that we are in a digital evolutionary process. I am just stuck with enough of my un-evolved self to still need my paper and pencil.
Less Volume, More Time:
Once I was a better multi-tasker, not outstanding, but better. I have learned that to be more efficient I have to tackles fewer things during a day, or a week or a week-end. I decide which few tasks need attention and I concentrate on those. I’ll bet most of us have done this at least once. You are working on the computer, typing away, and your cellphone rings. You answer and tuck it up under your chin. The caller talks, you continue to type, you acknowledge the call with some sound, and after a while you realize that you have no idea what the caller has just asked you a question about. So, I am trying to force my self to remove my fingers from the keyboard, concentrate on the call, and then go back to the keyboard.
I have set a deadline for phone calls from students and parents at 9pm. That is when I am on my way to bed. My cellphone does stay on the night stand by my bed because of my elderly parents, but I have learned to ignore other calls and let them go to voicemail At worst, I have the number in calls missed and I can call back the next day. In 1967 Charles. E. Hummel wrote a book, THE TYRANNY OF THE URGENT. We can too easily become tyrannized by the “urgent” that really is not urgent. We all need to remember this for our own mental, emotional and physical help…not to mention for the quality of our work…not all that seems urgent really is.
Practice Intelligent Neglect:
One of the ways my reporter’s notebook helps, is that I can jot down a concern or question, go on with the work I have planned and go back to the notebook to look at what is there. Sometimes the issue has been resolved and sometimes the issue no longer seems critical for me. During any given day, I re-examine what I had deemed priorities and see that which are actually pressing for me to do.
As I think about what I have just written I believe the we all need to be a bit more humane to ourselves. We can never completely fulfill the expectations that others may set for us. And, we need to come to terms with our own expectations of ourselves and allow ourselves to be truly human. We are dealing daily with the digital world, but the human race is not digital…yet.