Time Management or Committed Leadership?
You always hear that managing time effectively is an essential skill in life. The ability to organize how you spend an hour, day, or week, is an important skill to gain maximum efficiency, right? Time management in the online world – whether you are a student, teacher, or in another role – is extremely important, but in my opinion, different. Wikipedia defines time management as the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity. Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects and goals complying with a due date. While this is true and necessary for someone new to working online, I would argue that working virtually is more about being a committed leader than it is being a time manager.
Many more people are working virtually today – from home rather than going into an office building. The ability to focus on what needs to be done can be a challenge with the distractions of home life, especially when you first start working from home. This is especially true for students who are learning online and teachers who are teaching online for the first time. Making lists, staying organized, and following a calendar can be extremely helpful. Talking to others about how they organize their day is also useful in creating the schedule just right for you. Many people who have recently starting working virtually find the following tips beneficial:
- Plan the day, week, or month ahead of time
- Set aside reasonable chunks of time to get tasks done
- Prioritize tasks – in order of importance
- Make lists of items that need to get done
- Keep an organized calendar
- Allow for time to follow up (calendar it!)
- Find a partner or team to work collaboratively with
- Take small breaks in which you get up and move around
- Have a definite beginning and ending time to your day
- Engage in healthy activities to promote work/life balance
- Ask for help when you need it
While those guidelines can help the newcomer to online work, it won’t sustain the online worker. You have to make the decision to incorporate work into your life. I believe that anyone working from home needs two important things: passion for their work and a supportive family. You have to be a leader committed to what you are doing. You have to be willing to make it a lifestyle. I know this likely isn’t popular or what most people would advise, but I believe it to be true. When you work virtually, especially in instruction, there is always more to do. The day is never done. The “to do” list grows continually. You have to love what you do, inform your family of your needs, and set your own parameters. Because we have the ability to stay connected 24/7, you need to be able to define for yourself when you will work, and when you will shut down for the day or the week. This can and should look different based on the day, the people you are working with, the projects you are on, etc. It isn’t easy initially, and many people experience a steep learning curve. Online workers find keeping a work-life balance is difficult, at first. You have to be okay with meeting the needs of those you work with – even if that means calling in to a conference line at 7:30 AM, or accepting calls at 10 PM. You have to be willing to stay on top of email throughout the day or week. You often have long hours and odd hours, but if you are good at what you do, and love your work, this won’t be a problem. You will find ways to make it work with your life, even if it means altering the schedule your life once had. Only the best, most committed are successful. This is why I believe the best, most successful online workers are committed leaders, not just managers of time.