Why “cram more in” is an inadequate approach to time and life management

Dennis Sparks Many years ago I taught time management workshops for administrators and teacher leaders.

Initially, most of the strategies that I taught enabled participants to become more efficient in the use of their time. That is, educators learned how to accomplish more in the same amount of time.

I came to think of that as the “cram more in” theory of time management.

I noticed, however, that while educators were getting more work done, the quality of their lives and work wasn’t necessarily improving. Accomplishing more did not seem to reduce their level of stress, and, in some cases, even exacerbated it. They never quite seemed to accomplish “enough.”

That led me to formulate a “do less better” view of time management. From this perspective, time management was at least as much about the quality of our lives as the quantity of tasks completed or amount of time spent working.

The “do less better” approach asks educators to:

• clarify their most fundamental values and goals,

• focus relentlessly on the expression of those values in their lives and in the accomplishment of priority goals, and

• make the tough decisions and take the disciplined actions required to eliminate or minimize all else in their lives.

A “do less better” approach has implications for teaching, for school leadership, and for life in general, particularly given the challenges of 24/7 digital stimulation.

What do you think: Is it possible for educators to adopt a “do less better” approach given the demands of contemporary life, or is it just an unrealistic fantasy?


1 Response to “Why “cram more in” is an inadequate approach to time and life management”

  1. 1 Mike Phillips October 30, 2013 at 6:31 am

    Interesting post. It really challenges my beliefs.

    Last week, in a dialogue session with new vice principals, one rookie stated, “Who really thought I could do this job?” As we listened to her explain the comment with more detail, we realized the comment was not about the quality of work she was accomplishing, instead it was about the quantity of work placed upon her by students, teachers, other administrators and senior administrators. She is overwhelmed. And I have to admit, it’s a challenge for me each day too.

    I am a single Vice Principal in a school of over 1100 students. I believe my principal and I are a great team. We are efficient with our time, have great communication and work each day to improve each student’s learning experience; however we are constantly challenged with the expectation of more and more managerial and leadership tasks.

    Yesterday we received our next, new task. New this year, we are now responsible for evaluating Long Term Occasional teachers in our building as part of the province’s hiring practices. That means six more evaluations this year alone. This is an example of another task placed upon administrators to accomplish in the same finite amount of time. Something has to give, doesn’t it?

    With a finite amount of time in a day, I work smart to balance a career with my family life. My wife and two children deserve a husband/father that is engaged and full of energy. It’s a struggle.

    The Ontario Principals Council and the Ontario Ministry of Education have commissioned two surveys to collect data on Principal “work load”. We’ll see what they say in the future.

    Disclaimer – I love my job. Just sharing my thoughts on time management and the duties of an administrator and how it’s a struggle. Off to work…

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