One of the challenges I face in my practice is time management, a usually self-taught skill that is not in textbooks or college classes. We have busy schedules! We might start our day responding to emails and text messages and putting together the puzzle of providers and students being absent or late.
Break Down Your Day
My regular activities the first half of the day include visiting schools, supervising my team members, and discussing students’ progress or problems with teachers, school administrators and parents. All this while my phone does not stop buzzing with texts, calls and emails. My breaks are usually driving from school to school and my lunch might be a sandwich in my car.
There are weeks when I have to attend IEP meetings, conduct my monthly team meetings and attend supervisors meetings at our headquarters.
In the afternoons, my time is for completing billing, respond to emails, writing reports, and checking my providers’ session notes. And this is a “regular” week.
Effectively planning my day is paramount in being productive. “Time management is a skill that can make or break any professional.”*
Time management includes not wasting a precious and limited resource: time. “One way of wasting time is doing tasks that others can and should be doing.”*
How Not To Waste Time
One of the big “time sucks” I encounter a lot is doing tasks that are unnecessary or not a priority. Some emails can wait for later, and people can leave voice messages. Unless you know it is an emergency, there is no need to drop or pause what you’re doing to pick up the phone. Allow yourself to prioritize and let some things come later.
Allowing others to take your time with trivialities is also wasteful. “Behavior providers, by the very nature of positively reinforcing people, are sought out as friends, advisors and confidants.”* This can take valuable time that we should spend in getting our own work done. “We have to be kind, caring and analytic regarding managing non-work requests while getting our work done.”*
“For some professionals, task completion itself is a natural reinforcer. For others, there is a need for motivation to complete tasks that, in all fairness, can be boring, arduous, or unfulfilling. There is a behavioral procedure that is really helpful in this cases and can be self-administered: the Premack Principle, which basically states that preferred activities will reward less preferred ones.”* In plain English “Grandma’s rules”: First eat your vegetables, then you can have dessert. We use this strategy with our students, and we can easily implement it as a self-management strategy. Just make what you like to do contingent on what you have to do. For me, it can be watching TV or playing with my kids. So I make sure I finish my non-preferred tasks before I allow me to enjoy what I like to do.
Learn how to manage your time and you will become a more productive and effective professional.
Daniel Adatto, BCBA
*25 Essential Skills for Behavior Analysts, Bailey and Burch