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By Roger NeugebauerGo to page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Recently I received a note from a former subscriber who commented: "I love Child Care Information Exchange; but I let my subscription expire because, being a director, I never have time to read it." This really got my adrenaline flowing. I decided it was a problem of crisis proportions if directors were so crunched for time that they couldn't read Child Care Information Exchange!
So in order to help directors regain control of how they spend their time (and to avoid losing subscribers), I pulled together the following list of 50 practical time management techniques. These were selected to deal with the most common time problems of child care directorstoo much paperwork, too many tasks, too many crises, too many interruptions, and too little time to relax.
Cut Down on Paperwork
Paperwork has become a major source of frustration for child care directors. In fact government researchers estimate that every year four centers are totally buried in a blitz of paperwork and red tape and 3500 directors are afflicted by chronic paper cuts. While scientists have not yet discovered a cure for the common paperwork, there are some techniques for treating its symptoms:
Engage in Creative Waste Basketry. Be guided by the maxim, "When in doubt, throw it out." Don't kid yourself. If you don't need that brochure on "101 Classroom Uses for Used Egg Cartons" today, you probably won't need it two years from now either. Throw it out. Don't be constrained by a small wastebasket which fills up fast and discourages your urge to purge. Buy a large wastebasket and use it freely.
Don't Become a Paperwork Junkie. Don't become part of the problem by creating unnecessary paperwork. When you are about to write a memo, draft a report, or develop a new form, ask yourself, "What is the worst that could happen if this activity went unrecorded?" If the answer is not too serious, save the paper. Also, whenever possible, communicate messages to persons outside the center by phone rather than by mail. Most messages can be relayed more quickly and more accurately that way (Mackenzie). When answering letters where a short reply will suffice, jot your answer on the original letter and send it back.
Don't Be a Copycat. Resist the urge to make 25 photocopies of everything that crosses your desk. While many others may have a "right" to know or even a "need" to know about everything you do, let's face it, they probablydon't have a "want" to know about most of it.
Master the Art of Dictating. Letters can be transcribed about five times faster than they can be written out in long-hand. Additionally, this can be done while waiting for appointments, traveling to and from work, or relaxing in an easy chair at home.
Handle Mail Once. Reserve a specific time in the day to devote about 15 minutes to handling the day's mail. As much as possible, try to take appropriate action on each letter at once. If a letter requires a short response, don't put it down until you have responded. If the letter requires more involved investigation, strive to at least take one step to move it closer to completion (Lakein). Throw out as much as possible, and label everything else for appropriate filing.
File in Batches. On the upper right-hand corner of any material that needs to be retained, write the name of the file in which it should go, and place it in a "to be filed" basket. Once every week or so set aside 10-15 minutes to file everything in the basket.
Streamline Filing. The purpose of a filing system is to provide ready access to information you need. Two guidelines apply. First, keep files you use on a regular basis within easy reach of your desk. Keep all other files organized, but out of the way. Second, keep the system as simple as possible. Try to divide your files into as few functional categories as possible. If you set up large numbers of specific categories, when trying to find a particular file you'll not only have to remember the name of the file but also the name of the category. Within each category organize all files in alphabetical order.
Purge Files Periodically. Many people just keep accumulating records year after year. They can tell you how much pencils cost them back in 1937, but their offices are so crowded with files that they can't find the pencils they bought last week (Frost). At least once a year you should review your files to see how much can be discarded. Experts in records retention report that 90% of all files are never referred to after their first year. Strive to retain only the correspondence, general reference, and historical files that there is an obvious important reason for retaining. Check with your lawyer or accountant to determine how long legal and financial records must be retained. Once again, exercise the guideline, "When in doubt, throw it out."
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