As teachers, there is a lot of competition for our time. At a very basic level, we have lessons to plan, content to teach, students to connect with, papers to grade, relationships to nurture, scrapes to bandage, hearts to mend. Beyond school, we have all of our other personal responsibilities. These vary among us but one thing is for sure…all of the things we do take part of our time. And I don’t know about you, but for a long time I felt like I wouldn’t ever have enough of it to go around. It seemed like even if all of my bills were paid and lessons submitted and papers graded, I still would come up short when it came to time.
And time is kind of an interesting concept. It can’t multiply. You can’t buy more of it and hide it somewhere for a rainy day. No matter who you are or where you are, you have the same amount each day. So what can we do if we don’t feel like we will ever have enough time? Is it possible to find more?
There are many definitions of the word “find” including:
So if we are in need of finding time, we may need to put forth a little effort and do a little searching. According to the second definition, time may also be something that we have lost and need to recover. In any case, it sounds like in order to find time, we are going to have to do a little work. Time is not spending it’s hours looking for us. So how do we start to find our lost time?
Here are FOUR steps to finding our lost time…
STEP #1 Don’t change anything and keep honest track of your time.
For at least three days, keep track of how you spend your day in 15 minute increments. Don’t change anything. Just write down everything you cram into your precious 24 hours. This exercise is similar to keeping a food journal. Just like not remembering everything we eat in a 24 hour period, it may be really insightful to see everything that keeps you busy throughout a day.
STEP #2 Look at your daily lists with an honest mind and an open heart.
Begin to ask yourself some of these questions: Are there patterns in your days? How are you really using your time? Where are you actually doing meaningful work and tasks? Where are you being inefficient? Where are you procrastinating? When are you checking email or social media?
Add up the amount of time you spend on different activities. Did you even know you spent that much time driving around in your car or checking in on social media? This is a judgement free zone, so if the results surprise you no need to be hard on yourself. It’s actually good news…you may have just found some time you can get back!
If your list actually is making you overwhelmed because it is even more clear that you are running around all day long, take a deep breath. It may not feel like it but this is also good news. You will be far more successful at finding time when you make decisions from a place of truth. Looking at your lists are your truth.
STEP #3 Write down some places your time is hiding.
After looking at your lists honestly and openly, it’s time to uncover where your time has been hiding. Are there places where you spend large amounts of time on an activity that isn’t that satisfying? Could you consolidate errands to one day? Can you coordinate kid pickups with other things you need to do? Are there ways to plan meals at the beginning of the week instead of start from scratch each evening? Can you ask for help instead of thinking you need to do it all yourself? Can the students wait an extra few days for their papers to get returned?
STEP #4 Commit to recovering (and keeping) some time for yourself
Now that you know where your time has been hiding, commit to recovering some time in at least one aspect of your life. Although it may be tempting to make a complete overhaul, sometimes this backfires and we go right back to our old habits. Instead, start small. Choose one place to make a small shift that will help you recover (and keep) some time for you.
One word of caution, now that you have found some lost time, try not to fill it with random things. Maybe maintaining some quiet, peace and recharging moments are what you need. Maybe the time you found can be spent on rediscovering an old hobby or something creative that you haven’t done in years. Maybe your time is for a nap in the middle of the day. Maybe your time is for making phone calls to some family or friends you haven’t connected with. Maybe it’s taking a walk outside or driving a new way home.
Best of luck to you and finding and maintaining time. This is a simple concept but not always easy to do. If you have any great ways you have found to be more efficient with your time, please list them below. Time is one of our most precious gifts, and finding more of it is something that is sure to improve our health and well-being!