My system

photo credit: freephoto.com

Sometimes I am asked by colleagues at my school how I “find the time to do all that stuff” like blogging, reading RSS feeds, and acting as a sort of volunteer tech guy around school.  Part of the answer is probably that I enjoy a certain amount of stress in my life, but it is also the case that I have a system for managing all of my responsibilities.  Someday, maybe I’ll write a book about it, to join the hundreds of other self-help guides out there.  In the meantime, here’s a sneak preview:

  1. Managing my worries:  Above all else, I try to live by a part of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Specifically, Habit #1: Be Proactive.  One of Covey’s major points in this section of his book is that we each have a Circle of Influence that includes all of the aspects of our lives and the world at large that we can exert some control over.  Part of our development as adults usually includes the expansion of this circle.  We also have a Circle of Concern which defines the people, things, and issues that we think about and worry about.  The key is matching the two circles as much as possible.  I think that I do a good job of this, mainly by managing the latter.
  2. Triage:  My parents, sister, and brother-in-law are all nurses.  From them, I have learned the importance of sifting through incoming information and prioritizing/categorizing it quickly.  Many successful people do this well, but I have to admit that I can only do it because of the tools installed on my iPhone and my MacBook.  I’ve finally reached a place where my needs and the readily available software match up well.  I scan email in my inbox and quickly flag it for further attention or delete it as unnecessary.  I do the same with my RSS feeds.  Periodically, I check back in when I have more time (or set it aside, see #3) and deal with the items that need some sort of action.
  3. Carving out time for specific activities: This is really just a form of budgeting, applied to time rather than money.  I used to be one of those people who constantly complained about not having enough time to do the things I need or want to do.  I came around to the realization that it was all about priorities.  I faced the fact that there just isn’t enough time to do all of the things that I would like to.  Therefore, I must say no to some things.  The key for me was deciding which things were important (time with my kids, grading, planning, engaging with my PLN, writing, reading for pleasure, etc.) and blocking out time to do these things.  Of course, much of this is possible for me because I have a fantastic wife who allows me this flexibility and a year-round teaching schedule that includes periodic breaks.

The bottom line for me is will.  You have to decide that this is something that you want, and then you have to make it happen.