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Time Management for Online College Instructors

Okay, let’s see . . . looks like I have 20 essays to grade.

Oh, and I have those discussion posts too.

Crap.  I have those stupid short answer quizzes that I thought were a good idea at the time.

Wait . . . I have that video I need to make over Chapter 5 that I’ve been putting off.  I need a nap.

This has been me on many occasions.  In my misguided attempt to be super professor, I just gave myself more work.  And quite honestly, much like the Mountain Dews I drank to keep me awake had very little nutritional value, most of the assignments I had to grade had very little educational value.  As Frank Costanza once said, “There has to be a better way!”

What’s the Difference Between You and a Calendar?  A Calendar Has Dates.

The first thing you need to do is to stop looking at each course by itself when you are setting the semester calendar and due dates.  If you do, you run the risk of making multiple large assignments due on the same day.  This is like the Thanksgiving of course design.  If you consume essays, tests, projects, and discussion posts on the same day, you’re just going to end up sleepy and nauseous, with some possible self-loathing thrown in. 

You own these courses, so you need to at least make the schedule of assignments manageable.  Because let’s be honest, if you are overwhelmed with grading, how great of feedback are you going to give to your students?  How much effort are you going to put into giving them the attention that they need?  It’s like if you have more than three children; the first one you treat as if he or she is fragile, and by the time you have your fourth, you let him drive himself to the store to get him some more diapers.

Ever Try to Find a Mother’s Day Card ON Mother’s Day?

One of the ridiculous things we tend to do as instructors is constantly complain about students doing work at the last minute, all while doing most of our own work at the last minute.  Just like our students screw it up, this screws us up too. We have to force ourselves to work ahead.  Now I know some of you say you work well under pressure.  Okay.  Sure.  What do you say when one of your students says the same thing to you??  I’ll just leave it at that.

Working ahead when there is no pressure can yield quality and quantity in your educational awesomeness.  Doing a lot of work in the course of a day can lead to potentially two days of doing nothing.  And much like Peter in Office Space discovered, doing nothing can be everything you hoped it would be!

Nothing complicated here:  set aside an entire day, or set aside an hour every day for a week to work ahead on assignment creation, videos, and just ideas for your courses.  You’ll be amazed at what your brain comes up with.

Friday Afternoons are Better When You Go to Lunch and Don’t Come Back

Can you imagine a week when you could get your grading done in an hour?  Why imagine it?  Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating broad laziness, but I think there is benefit to scheduling one week during the semester that isn’t oppressive.  It’s good for you and your students.  We tend to be pretty hard on ourselves and on our students, but I think mental health is underrated. 

Look at your semester and see when is the best time to schedule an easy week while still meeting all of your course outcomes.  Now, if you’re one of those people who say that you can barely get all of the work in over the course of 16 weeks, you’re not a person I want to spend any amount of time with.  Come on. Dig deep and get creative.  Give yourself a breather to not take yourself so seriously. 

Or at least go eat some ice cream.  That makes everyone happier.

Here’s to Another Day of Outward Smiles and Inward Screams

Now, in reality, sometimes we cannot do anything to avoid being busy and working hard.  We knew that before we got into education.  If we don’t work hard, we don’t need to be instructors, and our bosses will despairingly mutter our names while consuming hard liquor.

However, we need to view our busy times with perspective.  Most instructors have time off in the summer.  And at Thanksgiving. And Christmas.  And Spring Break.  I mean, you could have a 40 hour a week all year long job.  There are clear benefits to this teaching gig.  So, we need to work hard when we have to and not work at all when we don’t.  We don’t need to feel sorry for ourselves because we have a job that demands our excellence.

So, in the end, the only one who really controls our time is us.  Take back that control and don’t let it cramp your awesome style!

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