PURPOSE: “To discover specific strategies for making the most of every twenty-four hours.” I found this project in the On Course Facilitators’ Manual, Chapter 4, “Mastering Self Management.” I teach a developmental course, Reading and Study Skills, at a small community college in South Holland, Illinois. This activity fit in well with the time management lesson. Most of the students are new to college so we discuss time constraints. Many of them work part-time and some even work full time. More than a few are parents with much of the responsibility of child rearing. There might not be enough time to do homework assignments unless they plan their time carefully. I ask them to make a weekly time schedule so they can see how they use their time. They can see where they can find time for study. By doing this Time Saver activity, I wanted my students to become aware of some things they could do to save time. They would become familiar with self-management techniques. Collaterally, they would learn to work together in small groups.
SUPPLIES/SET UP: Before the time savers project, I talk to the class about time management. I talk about using a things-to-do list, a monthly schedule, and a weekly schedule. I show them how to make a weekly schedule and for homework, I ask them to make one showing how they spend their time. From the weekly schedule, they can see where they have time to study.
PROCESS: After we discussed time management, I divided the class into small groups of five or six. I asked them to think about all the ways in which they save time. Then I asked them to choose a recorder. They were to go around the table and each one in turn, starting with the person on the recorder’s right, would give one of their best time-saving strategies. I gave them examples such as making lunches the night before to save time in the morning, recording their favorite TV shows to avoid the commercials. I told them they would have 10 minutes for this activity.
After ten minutes, I told each group to choose the three best time savers. They should pick a spokesperson to recite these strategies while I recorded them on the chalk board. After I wrote all of the strategies on the board, I told them that they would write a paper on this lesson for homework. Then I wrote the assignment on the blackboard. Which of these strategies will you try? What’s the life lesson here?
OUTCOMES/EXPERIENCES: From the sounds of the giggles and good-natured joking, the students seemed to enjoy this task. With little or no prodding from their classmates, a volunteer for the job of recorder came forward; it was the same for the spokesperson. Some of the strategies they came up with were wonderful. These were among the best of their best: Do online payment of bills, as well as direct deposit of paychecks. Buy in bulk to save shopping time. Iron clothes right after washing them. Plan a route for your errands that is most efficient.
The writing assignment yielded insight into what impact this lesson had on them. One student wrote, “This is a little assignment but one that has had a great deal of impact on the way I manage my time.” Another wrote, “Life is all about how we use and organize our day. I learned that by organizing and planning, my goals for the future are within my reach.” Another student observed, “If I stick with this plan, I will have more free time and more time to study. My grades will improve as well as my study habits.” Another wrote, “Time management skills are a necessity for an organized life.” The last one I will share with you was from a young mother with three children of her own married to a man who brought three more young children to the marriage. She wrote, “Applying scheduling to daily activities and all areas of our lives, everyone’s self esteem increased. Balancing everyone’s schedule created family unity and harmony.”
Some of the students wrote to tell me what time saving strategy they would use but did not bother to tell the life lesson they learned. The next time I use this lesson, and I will use it again, I will emphasize the life lesson learned. Perhaps I could give them an example of what I mean. Maybe, I will read to them one of the better papers from a previous class.
LIFE LESSONS: There were several things I learned. First, I learned new time saving strategies. I even shared one of them (iron your clothes right after washing them) with my hairdresser. She thought it was a great idea, and it is one tactic I am using. Then, I learned that the women with young children seemed to benefit most from this lesson. Many of these women run the household, work outside the home, and go to school. They were the ones who were most insightful when they wrote about life lessons learned. Another lesson learned was about students working in groups. I worried that they would go off task. However, when the students got into groups to discuss the lesson, they stayed on task and seemed to enjoy the assignment.
This exercise went very well with my time management lesson. It was a good beginning to the semester. I could tell from their smiles as they left the room that the students thought that this would be a fun class. I would recommend this activity to anyone especially those who teach first semester college students. The students not only learn that time is a limited commodity but also that they can be creative while coming up with time-saving strategies. This lesson gave the students a sense of control over their lives. They learned that they are in charge of themselves.
Diana Haney, Faculty, Reading and Study Skills, South Suburban College, IL