Time Management for Faculty

Tips on how to be time-efficient when faced with a multitude of duties.

  1. I. General
    1. Keep track of what you need to do.
      1. 1.     Write things you need to remember to do in your date book, calendar, PDA, etc.
      2. 2.     Prioritize your list:

a.  Important items with deadlines.

b.  Less critical items with deadlines.

c.  Important items without deadlines: give yourself target deadlines.

d.  Less critical items without deadlines.

  1. 3.     Categorize each task according to the time you think it will require.
  2. Plan your day, week, and semester or summer
    1. 1.     Block out parcels of time for which you have obligations.
    2. 2.     Block out parcels of time for yourself: personal e-mails, relaxation, reflection, coffee break with friends, etc.
    3. 3.     When you have a block of free time, consult your list of tasks and do those that fit into the time slot, starting with the highest priority.
    4. 4.     Minimize travel to essential (includes vacation!) trips.
    5. 5.     Organize your out-of-class time with students.

a.  Office hours, meeting times.

b.  Meet in groups if possible: can be beneficial to students to interact with peers, saves you time.

c.  Letters of recommendation:

1)     Have students supply addressed, stamped envelopes (if hard copy is requested) well ahead of deadline.

2)     Have students fill out an information form to give you material for letters.

  1. Consider trade-off of quality vs. time.
  2. Back up all your work!
    1. 1.     Hardcopies.
    2. 2.     Electronic back-up.
    3. Maintain a good (for you) filing system.
    4. Make others aware of your deadlines: chair, colleagues, staff, students, family.
    5. Manage e-mail carefully.
      1. 1.     You do not need to respond immediately to messages!
      2. 2.     If a student asks a question of general relevance, send reply to entire class.
      3. 3.     If reply would need to be lengthy, use phone call or office visit instead.
      4. 4.     If you will be away from e-mail for extended period, set up a “vacation” message.
      5. 5.     Write that you will reply to messages after your return as time permits – don’t promise!
      6. 6.     If faced with a pile of e-mails, go through them from latest to earliest (some issues will have already been resolved).
    6. Maintain a list of accomplished tasks for your annual report and to gain some satisfaction when many tasks are not yet done.
    7. Off-load tasks that you can delegate to staff and/or students; choose tasks carefully so that time for instructions and amending their work is limited.
    8. Maintain a log for a week, two weeks, or month of how you actually spend your time.  If actual time spent does not match priorities, make adjustments.
    9. For every new responsibility, research area, student working with you, etc.:  You MUST drop something else that takes your time.
  3. II. Classes
    1. Preparation
      1. 1.     Prep thoroughly the first time you teach a course that you will teach again.

a. Well-prepared notes and slides will help you in later sections.

b. You’ll probably perform better – and will have to do less “catch up” later.

  1. 2.     Start course design with what you really want students to know at the end of the course.

a. Pushing too much material won’t work;  students won’t retain the learning.

b. Build in activities and assignments that will cement the key learning.

  1. 3.     Use technology only when it really adds value.
  2. 4.     If using slides (PowerPoint), determine the goal:  do you want students to use as study notes (if so, make simple and don’t overdo background or other color).
  3. 5.     Write down list of items you will need to take to class.
  4. Before Class
    1. 1.     Give yourself 15-30 minutes to collect your thoughts (and yourself!).
    2. 2.     Check list you wrote beforehand of items you need to take to class.
    3. Immediately After Class
      1. 1.     Write down issues that you need to consider for the next class and questions for exam.
      2. 2.     Give yourself some personal wind-down time.
  5. III. Service Duties
    1. Volunteer for one or two departmental/college service duties that you think you would be worthwhile and not take too much time.
    2. Requests for service by your chair, dean, etc..
      1. 1.     Learn (with help of mentor) what requests you can safely refuse.
      2. 2.     Say “no” if you really don’t think that you have time or want to perform the duty.
      3. 3.     If a straight “no” is infeasible, ask your supervisor what other service duties you can drop to make time for the new duty.
  6. IV. Research
    1. Find the time!
      1. 1.     Create blocks of time for research during the semester.

a. No non-research-related e-mail, no phone calls, etc.

b. Find the best place with minimal distractions but with necessary resources.

  1. 2.     Stop working on academics within a few days of the end of classes.
  2. Summers
    1. 1.     Think of summer research time as almost over on June 1: get cracking!
    2. 2.     Confine work on courses to relatively small blocks of time.