It’s About Time: Time Management for Home Visitors and Supervisors

We all have to manage our time whether it be at home, work, school or all together.  This week’s blog is about time management from the perspective of not doing more things in less time but rather doing the right things better.  We will discuss some strategies on how to manage your time effectively to deal with multiple job demands including visiting families, attending weekly supervision, participating in staff meetings, dealing with paperwork, and the importance of communicating in a time efficient manner. This blog is intended to help you organize your time to make sure the things you need to make happen get done and to call attention to the GGK tools and resources available to you that are related to this topic.

According to Dr. Soumya Mishra, time is one of our most valuable resources. She points out that analyzing time usage on a regular basis, allows us to understand the most efficient ways to use time both in and out of the workplace. She also presents the idea that we develop habits for our use of time. Improving those habits requires an initial investment of time to think about reallocation of time resources. This investment will be rewarded by our ability to focus on the most important aspects of our job (Mishra, 2014). Do you know where your time really goes? Do you intentionally divide the tasks that make up your day? Certainly, a good starting point for time management is assessing how we spend our day; this closer look should include reflection on how we organize and prioritize our work as well as which of our habits result in a waste of time.

Let’s focus on how attitudes and habits shape the use of our time.  Technology has changed our attitudes towards time.  The use of Internet, e-mail, and immediate availability of online services and products have made communication instantaneous, making it possible to do more things in a day. But this advent of new technology has also reduced the pace of many important aspects of our lives. We spend less time sleeping, eating, enjoying family and friends, and doing other leisure activities such as reading or exercising.  Further, we have developed habits to compress actions such as making a phone call while having lunch, or reading emails during break times. These habits impact our ability to be present and fully connected with other people or the tasks at hand. So how can we effectively manage our time?

First, we need to understand that time is a fixed asset – the 24 hours in a day won’t ever change. But certainly the way we deal with time can be influenced.  In this regard, it would be more appropriate to speak about how we manage ourselves in regard to the performance of tasks within a certain time period (Claessens et al, 2007). Changing attitudes and breaking habits requires self-awareness, planning, and regular monitoring of time use.  There are various strategies and tools to plan activities and tasks including to-do lists, time logs, ways of limiting interruptions and distractions, avoiding procrastination, prioritizing and reviewing progress regularly, etc.

Working with families brings a whole different set of unique job demands and tasks that require creative planning and time management skills. As a home visitor, you have to adjust your schedule around the needs and availability of the families on your caseload, while also planning for supervision, staff meetings, and other agency administrative commitments. No one single magic answer will fit the needs of every home visitor; however, the following suggestions might assist you in determining the strategies that might work best for you AND still allow you to “Be Present and Connected” with the families you serve:

  • Create a realistic To-Do-List (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly)– could be hard copy or electronic format
  • Use a calendar or planner  –  to prioritize your tasks identifying the order, time, and nature of each task: urgent and important, important but not urgent, neither important nor urgent
  • Schedule time for email and Internet information – blocking an hour a day or 30 minutes at the beginning and 30 minutes at the end of each day will reduce the pressure of responding to emails while focusing on other tasks. Also, give yourself permission not to be connected to the Internet every hour of the day
  • Plan for driving and prep time, prepare the content/activities for each home visit, while planning time for documentation, filing, phone calls, and the possibility that home visits might occasionally need to be rescheduled or extended due to family crisis situations or other needs
  • Schedule daily breaks and lunch times away from your desk – this will help you recharge your batteries during the day
  • Plan ahead personal and/or annual leave – at the start of each year, take the time and effort to plan your vacation and holiday leave. This will assist you in organizing your workload around your time off
  • Review your use of time in supervision and seek feedback and recommendation from your supervisor – find out how well you are managing your time to respond to your job demands and responsibilities.  This will serve to reinforce your effective time management skills or open up a conversation if there is a need to re-allocate time resources.

GGK Action Tools are powerful strategies that encourage critical and creative thinking while building on the knowledge and skills that individuals already possess.  These action tools are inherent to the strength-based approached and can be used with all families to expand on parental competencies and address concerns. Supervisors are encouraged to also integrate these GGK Action tools into their individual/group communications, daily interactions and supervision.  Here are some examples of when a supervisor can use the GGK action tools to support staff in effective time management:

  • Problem talk–  Try this strategy when a staff presents a problem or when they are frustrated and forget they have the solution within them or when you (the supervisor) want to address a concern related to a Home Visitor’s time management.  This strategy can assist in clarifying the issue, identifying what has already been tried and brainstorming ideas for the best course of action
  • Accentuate the positive – Use this when you want to acknowledge strides a Home Visitor is making with regards to using time efficiently or creatively utilizing time management resources
  • Normalizing – Utilize this when you want a Home Visitor to know you understand her time management challenges are not unusual and that time management is very often a challenge in a job with so many demands
  • Feel, felt, and found –This works very well when you want to validate a Home Visitor’s feelings regarding her time management challenges, to share a time when you experienced a similar emotion and you think that sharing a strategy that has worked for you might be something the Home Visitor might want to consider trying (This is not about giving advice) for consideration
  • Wondering curiosity – Try this when a staff member might benefit from reflecting on how their opinions, beliefs and feelings about his/her use of time are impacting their  job effectiveness and feelings/attitudes about the job

Time management is not about maximizing the number of tasks or items you can check off in a day or even during a lifetime.  It is about living fully, productively, and joyfully.  Remember to give yourself credit for what you have accomplished at the end of each day, end of the week, end of the month. Time management is about being present and connected to doing one thing at a time, with all your energy, your attention, your heart.  Don’t let time pressures take away your passion for the work that you do!

Works Cited:

Mishra, S. (2014). TIME MANAGEMENT: A critical analysis. Social Science International, 30(1), 153-164. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1542686477?accountid=458

Claessens, B.J.C, Van Eerde, W., Rutte, C.G., Roe, R.A. (2007),”A review of the time management literature”, Personnel Review, Vol. 36 Iss 2 pp. 255 – 276. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00483480710726136

 

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