Students: Time Management (Part 2 of 2)

Manage Your Time
Manage Your Time

Time Management – What is it?

Time management is simply identifying what needs to be done along with how we spend our time and re-organizing our to-do list. Here are a few tips to help you take control of your time.

Time Management Tips

While the time management strategies shared previously are broader and more foundational, these time management tips can be used in your daily and weekly study habits. 

Routine

Identify how many hours a week you need to devote to each class. Determine the consistent times in your schedule you will devote to your coursework. This will help you develop the habit of studying at regular times instead of procrastinating and panicking when an assignment is due.

Minimize Distractions

You probably already know what keeps you from focusing, so be intentional to minimize distractions while you are studying. Maybe that means turning off your phone, setting a timer during a study break to limit your social media, walking the dog before you start studying, using noise-canceling headphones, finding a separate and quiet place to study, or recording your favorite TV show to watch later. If you don’t manage distractions, what should take you one hour could wind up sucking three hours from your day.

Task Master

Go over the syllabus to become familiar with all of the course requirements, such as the number of online weekly discussion posts, as well as all assignments and their deadlines. Create a calendar, either digitally or in a planner, with all due dates. Set up reminders, if needed, to keep you on track. If you are taking more than one course, do this for each one and designate your study times for particular classes.

Small Steps

Making incremental progress and setting goals for a project will help you better manage your time rather than crunching at the last minute and not doing your best work. Some of a course’s tasks can be completed in one study session. Others are more complex and will require reading, research, and extensive writing. Rather than simply putting due dates on the calendar for these assignments, break them down into smaller steps and assign a due date to each.

Take Breaks

Divide up your study times into 30-minute or hour segments, taking 10 to 15-minute breaks in between to clear your mind. Grabbing a cup of coffee, listening to part of a podcast, reading a book, sketching, or walking around the block can energize you to dive back in. 

Be careful to manage your break time also!

-RG

Students: Time Management (Part 1 of 2)

Manage Your Time
Manage Your Time

It can be difficult to do it all as a student. Work, family, friends, and classes all compete for your time.

There will be many times when something will just have to give. So how will you identify your priorities? And how can you squeeze in as much as possible? Time management.

Time Management – What is it?

Time management is simply identifying what needs to be done along with how We spend our time and re-organizing our to-do list. Here are a few strategies to help you take control of your time.

Time Management Strategies

To begin to manage your time as a student, there are a few time management strategies that will set you up for success from the beginning of your college career.

Perform a Time Assessment

Using an hourly calendar, identify and write down every task or event in your week, including everyday activities like watching TV, buying groceries, time on social media, or picking the kids up from school (if you are a parent or caretaker). With colored markers or pencils highlight activities that can NOT be moved or eliminated in red. Use a yellow highlight for items that could possibly be moved or taken on by another person. Lastly use the color green to highlight those items that can simply go away.

Reasonable Courseload

Knowing how much available time you have during the week will allow for a reasonable schedule of courses. Typically a three-credit course taking over an eight-week period will require approximately 10 to 17 hours per week. Schedule accordingly.

Support Systems

Let your friends and family know about your goals and ask them for help with everyday tasks that will save you time. For example, helping with cooking, cleaning, shopping or just running errands could save you a lot of time. You may find that these individuals enjoy lending you a hand all while they help hold you accountable. There is a support system close by that may be overlooked in many cases. Your classmates, who can serve as study partners, or your professors, who can help you with questions or obstacles you may face. If you’re not comfortable asking for help, simply ask them for suggestions or recommendations on how to manage your time.

Technology

Whether you use a time management app, a calendar with alerts for deadlines, an app to limit your time on social media, online tools for formatting references, or digital folders for keeping your business, personal and school activities separate, technology can save you time, so use it to your advantage.

-RG

Providing Constructive Feedback

Feedback
Feedback

It doesn’t matter what your position, role, level, or industry is, at some point in your career, you’ll most likely need to know how to give constructive feedback at work.

This will certainly be true if you manage a team, you might also be called to give this type of feedback to peers or team members when working on projects with multiple contributors. Keep in mind that providing constructive criticism can be easier said than done – it’s something that many people find challenging, and can be tricky to do well. Here are some of the top ways to provide constructive feedback.

Build Trust – Having a baseline of trust will help set the tone for your future conversations. This will both help you deliver your feedback, and help the other person accept it and put your suggestions to use. It can be difficult to accept feedback from someone you do not trust.

Be Specific – One of the best ways to give constructive feedback is to focus on specifics. Telling someone that their work needs improvement, but not giving details on what exactly is lacking isn’t helpful to anyone. The person won’t know what you’re looking for, so they’ll be frustrated and you most likely will not get the results you hoped for. When providing positive feedback, provide specifics. For example, instead of just saying “great job” or “nice work,” give a meaningful compliment that shows that you really took the time to observe their work and that you truly appreciate their contribution.

In Person – Whenever possible, it is always better to deliver constructive criticism in person during private meetings rather than via email, a direct messaging application, or phone. All of these technologies, while useful in other situations, are much more open to misinterpretation, because they eliminate important contexts such as vocal tone, body language, and emotional inflection like humor or concern.

It’s Not Personal – When giving constructive criticism, it’s important to remember to distinguish a person from their actions. If it feels like a personal attack, the individual will be more likely to shut down and lose trust in you than to listen to what you have to say.

Be Consistent – When leading a team over a longer period of time, making feedback a regular part of your ongoing conversations and meetings will go a long way. That means that you will both be on the same page in terms of expectations and performance and that when something more significant comes up performance-wise, you’ll be better prepared to deliver the necessary feedback, and they’ll be better prepared to receive it.

Timely – Don’t let days or weeks pass by before you give someone feedback on their work, especially when it comes to a specific project. You want the work to be fresh in both their minds and yours so that the conversation will be relevant and actionable.

-RG

Top 5 List – Ways To Be A Better Leader

Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain
Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain

Much has been written about the different ways to lead a  business or lead a team. Unfortunately, some leaders underestimate the importance of leadership skills. Some leaders just don’t think it’s important or they value marketing, finance, sales, technical or other skills more highly. And other leaders simply don’t grasp what it takes to lead others in their own business or as part of a larger team – unable to judge how much others look up to them for leadership.

It’s rare to find a leader who truly cares about the people who work for them and knows how to grow a successful team or business. While at the same time building a loyal, productive, happy, and empowered team. Here’s a shortlist of 5 things (plus a few BONUS things) that experts in the leadership development field have shared that will help leaders become better at growing their teams or their businesses.

Clear expectations – Everybody needs clear direction from the leader about where the business is going. Too many leaders believe that such things are self-evident. Expectations need to be articulated early and often.

Be consistent – Great leaders provide consistent messages. These leaders also make reasoned decisions without appearing to be arbitrary. This doesn’t mean they don’t change their mind. When they do change their mind they clearly communicate the reasons for the change going forward.

Relentless communication – Great leaders stay in constant contact with the people they lead. They don’t just check in from time to time via email or wait for others to come to them. They provide information, ask questions, and seek opinions. This does not require endless meetings, but it does require a measure of skill to make communications clear.

Seek input – Some leaders think that they have all of the answers themselves. Even if that’s true, great leaders will still seek input from others. Successful leaders are decisive – they don’t put things off or offer half-decisions that leave people wondering what they’re supposed to do.

Avoid overload – Many teams and businesses may find themselves in a fast-paced environment with high intensity similar to that of a startup that feels like a 24/7 job. An environment with a significant number of emails and urgent projects debated all hours of the night and on the weekends can overload a team quickly. Sometimes that goes with the territory. The great leaders are the ones who are sensitive to it and find ways to relieve some pressure by keeping meetings to a minimum and making them highly efficient.

BONUS: Culture – Great leaders recognize that most people want a work environment that’s about much more than simply earning a paycheck or collecting a bonus. Great leaders surround themselves with people who have mutual respect for each other and care about one another on a personal level. These great leaders recognize people as individuals not just as workers or staff members.

BONUS: Show gratitude – Great leaders live by the practice of “praising publicly and criticizing privately”. It’s amazing how gratitude and public praise can lift others and spur them to do more or to take on more. People simply want to be appreciated. Leaders who show appreciation by offering praise or gratitude will in return foster a team of individuals who are loyal and willing to go the extra mile to help the group be successful.

BONUS: Help others be successful – this is one of the fundamentals of great leadership. It’s one thing to praise people and quite another to constantly be on alert about what guidance and resources they need to be successful. It starts with leaders caring about others’ success as much – if not more – than they care about their own.

-RG

Top 5 List – Bad Leadership Skills

Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain
Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain

Recently a small group of colleagues and I met for a regular informal meeting about the world of work and what that looks like now. The discussion quickly turned to an article a couple of us had seen online…the topic was leadership. In this case, bad leadership. We all agreed that leadership is simply defined as developing the members of your team to their fullest potential (or something very close to this). The author presented 5 of the most common bad leadership behaviors they had witnessed. In summary, those 5 are:

Lacking integrity – Employees will know when questionable decisions are made for financial gain or for the personal benefit of leadership. If the employees know,  then the respect has already been lost. Leaders should lead their teams by example and always show integrity in the decision-making process. 

Failure to provide ongoing feedback – The typical annual performance review and its process often doesn’t result in positive feedback. Typically in this process, managers will bank a year’s worth of views and perspectives until review time dumping them all at once on the employee. This experience often leaves the employees feeling dazed and confused overwhelmed and even irritated.

Not recognizing good work – Gallup has surveyed millions of employees from around the world. The results of the surveys show that people who receive regular recognition for doing good work increase their productivity, increase their engagement, and are more likely to be retained as an employee. 

Being disrespectful – Last year (2020), Resumelab conducted a poll on what it means to be considered a bad leader. This poll found that 72% of those surveyed were treated in a rude or disrespectful manner by their supervisor. Another 70% were criticized in front of their peers and 83% of them felt bad about it.

Failure to communicate – Communication issues are common. There can be too much communication, too little communication, or wrong messages being conveyed. Whatever form poor communication arrives in it can affect employee morale, disengage employees, and even create problems with customers. Communication should be crystal clear in every form.

-RG

Let’s Talk

Let's Talk...
Let’s Talk…

Remember that part of the Holidays is about being present in the moment with those closest to you. You may break bread to connect with these people in your life. The food is there to signify the importance of the event and also to make it easier to focus on the conversation. And to be present in the moment may require a conversation starter.

Get to know each other better, ask the question(s) you always wanted to ask.

Here are some sample questions to use with working adults:

  • What are you most excited about right now? Why?
  • What have you learned from this experience?
  • What is not perfect yet?
  • What are you willing to do to make it the way you want it?
  • What are you willing to NOT do to make it the way you want it?
  • How can you enjoy the process?
  • What is the most innovative thing you’ve done recently?

Focus on the conversation. Get to really know what is going on with this person.

Here are some sample questions to use when speaking with children:

  • What was your favorite part of the day?
  • What’s your favorite class or subject at school? Why?
  • What’s your least favorite or toughest subject at school? Why?
  • What was the biggest challenge for you right now?
  • What made you smile or feel happy today?
  • What made you frown or feel sad today?
  • What is your favorite thing to do with the family?
  • You can also ask children: “Would you rather” questions, such as “If you could choose a superpower, would you rather choose flying or invisibility? Why?

Here are some sample questions to use when speaking with elders:

  • What are the most rewarding things about getting older?
  • What are the most difficult things about getting older?
  • What do you remember about your parents and grandparents?
  • What do you want family and friends to remember about you?
  • What life advice would you pass on to your family and friends?
  • What was your favorite thing about school when you were young?
  • What were your friends like when you grew up?
  • What was your first job?
  • What was your favorite job?
  • Who were your heroes and role models when you were young?

There are many more questions that you can ask. 

Remember to look into the eyes of the person you are speaking with and have fun with the questions…

-RG

Top 5 List: Be A Better Co-worker

Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain
Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain

As hybrid working, co-working, and open work environments become more popular people will be more likely to spend a significant part of their day working next to someone else. And there’s a greater chance that’ll be working next to someone they don’t know. In an effort to help maintain a comfortable and stress-free work environment we owe it to each other to be respectful, kind, and courteous. Here are a few tips for being a better co-worker.

Meetings – if there’s a need for a meeting okay then use a meeting room. To have a trusted colleague come over for a quick exchange is one thing and acceptable by most professionals. However having a small group meeting at your desk can be disruptive to everyone else in the workspace.

Eating – avoid turning your desk into a dinner table, there is no need to eat your desk. A cup of coffee and a small cookie or even a cup of fruit is fine. If you absolutely have to eat at your desk try to bring foods that don’t have strong smells.

Dress – showing too much skin can be offensive and can have a negative impact on the way that people perceive. You don’t always have to dress in professional business attire, just make sure that you’re not dressed for a day at the beach. A hoodie and sweatpants may not be the best option either.

Phone – be aware of others around you when speaking on the phone. Loud talkers may inadvertently share private or confidential information that others may not be interested in hearing. Be especially cautious of using a hands-free speaker. Trust that no one wants to hear your personal conversations. Consider stepping away from your workspace and the folks that you share the work environment with, if need be.

Grooming – there should be absolutely no personal grooming at your desk. Some of the most offensive things that bother people the most include nail grooming, teeth flossing, and applying deodorant. Basically if you do it in the bathroom at home then you should NOT do it in the office.

-RG

Embrace Diversity In The Work Environment

Smiling Faces
Smiling Faces

There is no single (or preferred) strategy to help embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the work environment. It’s important that all members of the organization recognize that continuous forward motion is the only way to achieve success. Here are a few strategies to get started:

Start the conversation – this starts with the leadership team. Open the door, set the tone, and send a very clear message that DEI is something that will be discussed openly and acted upon.

Increase transparency and accountability – organizations that do not operate with a high level of transparency and understanding of what is being done to increase DEI, will not feel that enough is being done to make a sustained improvement.

Inclusive leadership skills must be developed – simply being aware of unconscious bias or having a basic business sense for DEI is not enough. Awareness is important, however, it doesn’t automatically mean that action will be taken. Leadership needs to learn the tools, understand the frameworks, and utilize the skills to help close the gap between theory and practice.

Take notice of diversity during conversations and decisions – leadership must create the conditions in which diverse viewpoints will be represented, they must be purposeful in seeking out people with opposing viewpoints, they must delegate equitably, and then proactively identify opportunities for all to maximize professional development.

Pay attention – the growing challenges of DEI efforts have been highlighted due to hybrid and virtual working conditions. Some groups have reported that the virtual working environments come as a relief where being at home has provided a safer place to conduct work during the pandemic. It is clear that flexible work arrangements bring huge benefits, it also creates a risk for widening the diversity gaps and possibly creating new ones. Leadership (and all other members of the organization) need to pay attention to how all people are being treated. Leaders should be intentional in the way they engage and acknowledge each person and their value to the organization.

Act as an ally – acting as an ally for someone is similar to being a catalyst for change. To embrace diversity in the workplace is to advocate on behalf of others and contribute to creating fair working conditions for everyone. Additionally acting as an ally becomes even more critical when supporting historically those groups that have been excluded and may face unique challenges.

Commit to change – to look inward is a very critical piece to enhancing a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Each member of the organization should consider their own leadership strengths and opportunities as they relate to these best behaviors and best practices.

Building a platform – it takes every member of an organization to take action to embrace diversity. It requires the work of the individual, the team, and the entire organization. This work is difficult, so all of those involved should be considerate of others by maintaining their coworker’s sense of self-esteem and demonstrating empathy. Empathy is key. Leadership should continue to spread the message that there is always work being done in this area as well as modeling the behaviors they want to see in their teams and develop a loop for feedback.

-RG

Top 5 List – Tips To Prepare Students For College

Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain
Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain

You might be surprised to learn that more than half of first-year college students say they aren’t prepared for college, despite being academically eligible to attend.

College readiness can ensure this doesn’t happen.

By definition, college readiness is the set of skills, behaviors, and knowledge a high school student should have before enrollment in their first year of college. Counselors and teachers play a key role in making sure this happens and can help students find academic success in college. If you’re already a teacher or studying to become one, it’s important to know how you can effectively prepare your students for college.

Why is College Readiness Important?

The transition from high school to college is a major one. In many cases, students move away from home and embark on a new life chapter—both academically and personally. It’s crucial for parents and teachers to understand why college readiness is important so that they can better prepare students for a successful college experience even before enrollment.

Multiple studies show that college readiness improves a student’s chance of actually completing their degree. But the impact is even bigger than that. According to a report by American College Testing (ACT), high school graduates need to be college and career-ready in order to have a properly skilled workforce that meets the demands of the 21st century.

Below are some ways teachers can equip their students for that next academic step.

How Can Teachers Measure College Readiness?

True college readiness requires both academic and real-world skills. In fact, the ability to solve problems, work in a team, and be resourceful are viewed by some experts as equally important to mastering mathematics and reading. So, while many colleges use ACT/SAT scores or a student’s high school GPA to measure college readiness, there are other indicators or “soft skills” that teachers can look for.

Essential Soft Skills for College Readiness

  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Networking
  • Goal setting
  • Collaboration
  • Problem-solving

Here are five tips you can use to better equip students for college success.

Focus on Executive Function Skills

Executive function refers to the mental skills that we use every day to learn and manage our daily lives. They include things such as memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. These skills can develop at different rates in different students. One way you can help support students in developing these skills is to establish a mindfulness routine that includes regular self-check-ins, self-reflection, intention setting, and gratitude practice.

Make the Classroom More Rigorous

It might be a challenge at first, but updates to the curriculum to include more intensive coursework is the key to ensuring students are well equipped with the broader set of strategies they’ll need for college. You can do this by implementing a challenging curriculum and assigning longer, more complex assignments that involve things such as research, collaboration, and problem-solving.

Another thing you can do to help prepare your students for college is to teach them the value of extracurricular activities or after-school jobs. These things demonstrate to college admission officers that a student is well-rounded and capable of handling the responsibilities that come with college.

Consider Social Aspects of College

Teachers can better prepare their students for college by teaching them social-emotional skills that they need to thrive in a post-secondary setting. Assigning group projects that promote collaboration and encourage students to become involved in school activities, volunteer opportunities, or cultural events can encourage students to flex their interpersonal skills.

Teach Practical Skills

The best way to teach practical skills is to create coursework that allows students to put them into practice. Educators should look for opportunities to incorporate real-world skills into their instruction. For example, if you’re a math teacher, you can teach students how various math concepts relate to financial literacy, budgeting, or even preparing food.

Encourage Additional Preparation Resources

Prep courses and Advanced Placement (AP) classes are two of the best ways to academically prepare students for college. Not only do they give students a preview of what’s to come, but in many cases, students can earn college credit and get a head start on their college careers.

Preparing students for the financial responsibility of college is important, too. The Department of Education’s financial aid toolkit offers multiple free resources for teachers and their students.

-RG

Reflection And Change

Change – CC0 Public Domain
Change – CC0 Public Domain

Tips for Faculty: Reflection and time to consider a change

The pandemic resulted in a dramatic shift in instruction and learning models for college faculty. What began as temporary measures in response to an emergency may end as a catalyst for the transformation of higher education. The end of the fall semester is an opportunity to review and reflect on what is and is not working as institutions continue to navigate uncertain times.

Most campuses will welcome students back for full-time, in-person learning this fall. As a result of continuing COVID outbreaks, many courses are still being offered as a mix of in-person and online learning. The seismic disruption to higher education has resulted in the largest adoption of technology ever, allowing faculty to reconsider how they teach and explore new ways to teach, mentor, and coach students.

For all the upheaval, this has been a time of experimentation. Institutions have had to shake up every process and policy to respond to the needs of faculty and students. It is time to fully embrace technology, particularly with routine tasks. Technology can support faculty in spending most of their time in direct engagement with students in person or online.

This break between semesters is a good opportunity to reflect on new practices that promise flexibility in how instructors teach and assess their students. Questions to consider include:

  • Are the courses and topics connected to students’ personal and career goals?
  • Are there frequent opportunities for students to collaborate and learn from one another?
  • Are feedback loops between students and faculty open and productive?
  • Is course content and pedagogy still relevant after all this change?
  • Have new practices to stimulate student engagement been implemented?
  • Are equity and student success embedded in new practices?
  • Has the focus shifted from instructor-led to student-centered learning?
  • Do students have agency in how they manage their own learning process?

Faculty should be encouraged to take time to review and reflect on how the last 14-16 months have changed their teaching practice.

-RG