Time Savers

Make sure time is on your side with these practices.

Time is the proverbial black hole that educators must constantly manage as they juggle multiple jobs in a typical workday. Whether it be managing staff, dealing with parents and community, or implementing new technologies, time is usually not on our side. Although technology cannot solve all problems, it can assist educators on all fronts in helping them become more productive and efficient.

Use e-mail. One step administrators and teachers can take is to become proficient in the use of e-mail as a vehicle for intraschool communication. Agendas and memos can be easily distributed to the staff via e-mail, thus heading off the need for hard-to-schedule, face-to-face meetings. Individual staff requests and feedback can also be transmitted to administration, which eliminates the need for office visits during the school day. Also, like e-mail, instant messaging software can be a great way to communicate quickly (for more about IM, see "Time to Chat?" at the end of this article).

Estimated time savings: Three to four hours per week.

Mark it on a digital calendar. Beginning the week with a look at a desktop, laptop, or PDA's calendar can better prepare educators to maximize time on task. A look at individual days can help the educator detail an action plan in the morning, thus adding to personal efficiencies. Add to the e-calendar option a database of contacts — vendors, parents, and board members — that can be easily accessed, and additional time can be saved.

Estimated time savings: One to two hours per week.

Program voicemail messages. Don't forget that old-fashioned technology, the telephone. Programming a detailed daily phone message can ward off unnecessary messages and inform callers when and if you will be available. Most callers will opt out of leaving a message if they know you are in a meeting or out of the building. That alone will save message retrieval time for the busy educator.

Estimated time savings: One hour per week.

Put software applications to work. Plenty of desktop applications can help you become more efficient during your workday. Business card scanners, individual label printers, organized CD/DVD storage, and remote PC access can only add to creating an organized approach to time management. All of these tools can and do interact as professionals perform weekly tasks with time constraints in mind.

The ability to connect to and control one's desk PC remotely is the greatest tool in the battle to manage a heavy workload. Having access to your files, printers, databases, e-mail, and numerous other heavily used applications allows you to work from anywhere at anytime. The downside is that the typical work day extends into the evenings, weekends, and vacations. When users reach that management level, remote management capabilities become much-welcomed tools.

Estimated time savings: Four to eight hours per week.

Get dual monitors. For the more aggressive techno-educator, having dual monitors with extended desktop views can take multitasking to new levels. The ability to have several applications open at once with the capability to cut, paste, and move text from one application to another — between screens — is indeed a great time saver.

Estimated time savings: Three to four hours per week.

Take a shortcut. Having ready-made templates as shortcuts on your PC desktop can save keystrokes and time. Documents such as fax cover sheets, memo headers, letter templates, and frequently used forms can be fired up and edited quickly during a busy workday.

Estimated time savings: One hour per week.

Plan it out. Use old fashioned planning. Aside from technology-based hardware and software, one's ability to plan and prioritize is crucial to maximizing productivity. Starting the day with an outline or list of tasks that need doing is the first step in structured time management. Prioritizing "must complete" activities followed by second level items (those that should be done time permitting) will give one a plan to follow each day. Items that do not make it to the completed bin move up in priority for the next day. There will always be a batch of items that float in limbo until the top two levels are off the day's slate.

Estimated time savings: Beyond quantifying.

Bill Burrall, a former Technology & Learning national teacher of the year, is coordinator of instructional technology programs for Marshall County Schools in Marshall County, West Virginia.

Time to Chat?

One administrator looks to instant messaging for faster communication.

By Stephanie Gold

Educator: Steven Moscowitz, technology director, Brewster Central School District, Brewster, New York.

Tool: After his daughter showed him the ropes, Moscowitz adopted AOL Instant Messenger as his preferred communication tool. "All you need is a Web browser," he says. "The accounts are free, and they work cross-platform."

MO: When Moscowitz has a quick question for one of his technicians, help desk staff, or vendors, he checks his Buddy List to see who's online and available. From there he can zap a note to the person, invite a third or fourth party to join the chat, and save or print the conversation. "It's easy to see who's there and get a quick response," he says. "It's a really popular technology with kids, but I think it also has good business uses."

For more time-saving techniques, see "Seven Time-Saving Tools" at www.techlearning.com/timesavers.