Thoughts on Organization, Time Management and Taking My Own Advice
by Abby on
For many years now, I’ve worked with students of all ages to strengthen their time management and organization skills based on the strategies in Ana’s first book, That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week. I believe whole heartedly in these methods, and have seen first hand how they positively impact student’s academic and personal lives. The tenets are simple and straightforward, from scheduling homework blocks and capturing all activities and school work in a written planner, to starting to study for a test at least a week ahead of time. (There is something especially rewarding about converting a student from keeping track of their assignments and tests online to writing everything down in one place—as this is often the key to success they would have never believed, in the age of all things digital, that they needed.) I also talk to them at length about the “myth of multi-tasking” and have pointed out more than once that it really isn’t possible to do homework while listening to a podcast or watching Netflix at the same time (!).
However, it was only recently that I realized I wasn’t taking my own advice. I’m not a disorganized person, but up until now, I have kept track of my “to-dos” on scraps of random paper or in the notes app on my iPhone, and here and there, things have fallen through the cracks. I’m also the working mother of a three-year-old, and feel scattered and overwhelmed sometimes—not infrequently try to wash the dishes, make a meal and start a load of laundry all at the same time. I’m also in constant motion more than I’d like to be (like many of my students) and there are days where in trying to juggle 20 tasks, I can’t bring one to completion well (also like many of my students). I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to change, I just knew I wanted to shift things. I also wanted more time in my day to reflect and write, a passion of mine that usually doesn’t even make the bottom of my to-do list. Not long after, when I was re-organizing a closet at Green Ivy, I came across some surplus academic year student planners that would be useless after July. Laughing to myself, I took one.
The next day, I started writing things down—everything I needed to do, along with what I wanted to do. I started scheduling in time to write and relax alongside picking up dry cleaning and grocery shopping. I was pleasantly surprised that at the end of that first week, I had met my goals and managed to eek out nearly 1,000 words on my latest essay. I’ve continued to use the planner for the last several weeks, and I’ve noticed a few things, like I don’t feel as stretched thin as I did before, and I revel in crossing off all the things I’ve accomplished each day. Obviously, I should have taken my own advice (or Ana’s, really!) much sooner, and when a week doesn’t go as planned, I think about how we get students back on track when things go sideways. We take a deep breath, and talk about what worked last week and what didn’t, and what we want to change. Then, we make a plan to keep moving forward.