Take time to make time
By DEANNA MORROW
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 8, 2001
Question 2) While Winston Churchill was meeting with President Roosevelt during WWII, how many hours were there in a day
Final Question) While Martin Luther King Jr. fought for the equality of all men and women, how many hours were in a day?
Bonus Question (Any decent teacher has a bonus question) How many hours are there in your day?
I am hoping you answered 24 to each of the questions. The real question, however, is this: Are you as productive with your time as were Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King Jr.? If you are, you are well on your way to greatness. Most students are not as productive. What do successful people do to become successful? They plan, and they plan well. They manage their time effectively. People who succeed at life set forth a plan and keep that goal in sight at all times.
Time is my most valuable resource. I think that is probably the reason I get so irritated when I wait in a doctor's office for more than an hour. I see those 60 minutes as wasted time. I try to read the articles in the magazines, but all I'm thinking is "I could be doing this" or "I could be doing that." By the time I see the doctor, I am so irritated I forget half the things I wanted to mention. I don't understand why people are so careless with time. As the minutes tick by, they are gone forever. You can't answer a bonus question and make up for lost time. Believe me, you can't. I've tried.
What you can do is start using your time to the fullest, so when you look back on the minutes of your day you see all of the things you have accomplished instead of the lost minutes never to be seen again. Okay, so I am being a little melodramatic. But how do you want to view your life? As lost opportunities? Or as success and celebrations? If you start planning now while you're still in school, you will have plenty of celebrating to do during your lifetime.
Because this article is about time management, let's talk about managing your time so you can become a person of greatness. Now that we have established there are 24 hours in a day, we can begin to plan. Let's start small and work our way up to the greatness thing.
How many hours of sleep do you need a night? No, I am not kidding. The key word is need, not want. We may want 12 hours, but we really need around eight. It is hard for me to fathom, but there are people among us who only need four or five hours of sleep per night. Oh what I could do if only . . .
You need to determine your optimum sleep time. Most teenagers prefer to go to bed at 1 or 2 in the morning and get up around noon. The real world does not work that way, though, and most school schedules don't either, so it's not the best habit to form. Subtract the amount of sleep you need from 24 hours. The remainder is your manageable time.
It may be hard to believe but you have an average of 16 hours of manageable time a day. Although eight of those hours have been planned for you in the form of school, you can still budget your time effectively. The easiest way to begin is to consolidate all of your phonebooks, e-mail addresses, agendas and calendars into one planner. Planners come in every shape, size and color. For the tech types among us, there are even easy-to-use electronic planners. Choose a planner that is easy to use and fits your personality. The more comfortable you are with your planner, the more likely you are to use it.
Habits can be formed in 21 days, so if you want your life organized, stick with one planner for three weeks. With your planner, as things come up, write them down on the dates that apply. If you have one planner, you are less likely to schedule family fun night the same day as the big football game.
Every night before bed, or as soon as you wake up after hitting the snooze button for the fourth and final time, plan the upcoming day. The majority of your master task list was created as things came up. If you need to add anything to your list, do it before you prioritize the items. Once you think your list is complete, number the items from most to least important.
Although you are in school for eight hours each day, five days a week, you can still get plenty of things done. Complete your Spanish homework during study hall and check it off your list. While at your locker, you can schedule the important details for upcoming weekend events. You can read for pleasure on the bus to and from school. You have to decide what is important in your life and prioritize with the end result in mind. If your end result is to have all of your schoolwork completed by Thursday night because there is a huge soccer tournament during the weekend, then prioritize your schoolwork with the end result in mind. Finish your work, go to the soccer tournament, score many goals and go to school Monday excited about your great accomplishments.
Although you can get quite a few things done during school hours, the bulk of your manageable time will fall between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. With your master task list, determine approximately how long each item will take. Make sure to schedule chores and obligations as well as schoolwork. Even if you have always had violin lessons on Monday at the music studio, schedule it in your planner. It will be much easier as things come up during the day. Oh, yes -- things definitely come up during the day; I call them straws. If your teachers are as sadistic as I am, when I assign homework it had better be ready by the next day or else -- or else -- well it just has to be, okay? If you know you have violin, then you can plan your "straws" accordingly. If you manage all of your straws effectively, then you never have to worry about the camel and her proverbial overloaded back.
The day will come when the sun will set, and the stars will shine and you'll look at your master task list, all of your straws, and your priority numbers, and say to yourself "HOLY COW! I didn't finish my list." Don't panic; you can still achieve greatness. There will be items on your list that you cannot check off because of circumstances beyond your control. If you call a Vietnam Vet as a primary source for a paper due in history class, he or she may not be home. You should not check it off your list, because the task was not completed.
When you plan for the next day, add a follow-up call to that day's master task list. There will be days when you have every minute scheduled and too many straws come up, so something on the lower end of the priority list will get sacrificed.
I do heed one warning, from personal experience. If people know how well you manage your time, they will want you to do more. If that's your goal, you've got them right where you want them. However, if your end result is to have more free time to do the stuff you love, such as spending time with your family, learning a new skill, living a healthier life, reading for the sheer pleasure of it, playing, or nurturing relationships with your friends, let people wonder how you get everything done. As you fall asleep each night, think about your accomplishments and remember: You are destined for greatness!
Deanna Morrow is a geography teacher at Walker Middle School in Tampa. She has been teaching in the Hillsborough County school system for nine years. She has a master's degree in education and has been trained nationally as a teacher consultant through the History Alive! program.
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