I have what appears to be a strange situation, although it is fairly common: I am finishing my master’s degree. I’ve been teaching a few classes, and I coach our university’s speech team. And I can’t forget my wife and two children. Sometimes I feel I’m performing on a tightrope while juggling at the circus. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way to make this all possible. Some of which are my own and some I borrowed from the great teachers of the past. I will share them with you now.
Plan everything. For some of us, this seems obvious, but for others, a bit of scheduling will make your day more productive. First, let’s consider the things we have no control over, like your work schedule. I am lucky; it is 6:30 to 4, Monday thru Friday. Your teaching schedules, office hours, and extracurricular obligations will tend to stay the same. I coach and attend speech and debate tournaments of which I know times and dates in advance so that I can schedule them too. Strange as it sounds, schedule times with your family, or at least keep them on your list because they can easily get overlooked. The things that will overwhelm you are the things you forget to schedule. Teaching classes requires a lot of prep time. Don’t forget to schedule preparing lectures, exams, assignments, and grading papers and tests. There is nothing worst for a student to come back to class after they submitted a paper or test and it isn’t graded because you did not schedule the grading. They work hard to submit assignments on time; we should do the same for them and show them we appreciate their hard work. Without this schedule/roadmap, we tend to wander and procrastinate.
Do not procrastinate. When I went back to continue my education, there were many things I learned to help me survive. One of the most significant was not to procrastinate. I see too many students writing essays and papers the night before they are due and they wonder why they are stressed out. For many, it is a lack of planning or prioritizing, but for others, it is just a simple case believing that there are more than 24 hours in a day. “I will get to it later.” You have made a plan. Once and a while, things come up, but you can get into the procrastination spiral if you are not careful. Whatever you have on your plan, do not wait; get it done. You will find that you have more extra time than you thought.
Get some rest. When I was younger, I was able to survive on little to no sleep. Now, if you do not get at least six hours of sleep on average with an occasional eight hour night, I can’t function. When you are making your daily, weekly, and monthly plans, include sleep and sometimes time away from work and school. Spend time with your family or just once and a while do nothing. Watch TV or whatever you want to do to relieve a little of your stress.
Keep everyone informed. When I went back to school, my kids were teenagers. There was nothing worse than hearing that someone scheduled you to an event or committed you to do something when you have a final to write or an event coming up that weekend. I found if everyone knew my plans beforehand, I could avoid scheduling problems. For me, a large monthly planning broad from Staples solved this problem. Everyone could look at my schedule and know what I was doing in the future. This made negotiating possible. Somethings can’t be moved around, but if I knew that I have a baseball or soccer game to attend, I’d have to write that exam sooner than I had planned. It is all about communication.
There are many other things that I do to make my school/work/family work, just as there are many time management techniques that work better for some and not for others. But hopefully, this is a good start for you in managing your time regularly.
*This article was orginally written in October 2020