Day Care Supervisors have to be able to juggle a lot of brightly colored balls in their average workday. Not only do they have to oversee all operations in their center, but they have to deal with sometimes challenging children and a few high maintenance parents. Employee management and training also fall under their purview along with educational program development and regulatory compliance. For many supervisors, especially those new to the industry, the hours can disappear without managing to complete the essential elements of their ‘to do’ lists. Time management skills are vital to keeping supervisors sane and on top of their workload.
The ideal scenario is where you can work smarter by creating a concrete plan and then sticking to it come hell or high water. But that is going to require discipline to ward off the constant distractions that are part and parcel of the daycare center environment.
Here are 9 Time Management tips for new supervisors to use to be more productive.
1. Establish set hours for your open door policy. Yes, it sounds marvelous to tell a parent that “my door is always open” until you are inundated with so many drop-ins you can’t get a single task completed on a workday. Send out these specific time slots for parents via email or newsletters so they are aware of when they can visit with their questions or concerns. You can also place a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door for specific periods of time where you need to be focused on administrative tasks. During these closed-door sessions, assign a colleague to call answering duties. Make sure that the only time you can be interrupted is in case of a real emergency.
2. Set Clear Goals. What would you like to achieve at the daycare center in the short and long-term? You will need to plan for those dreams to become a concrete reality. Setting goals helps you to prioritize what is essential to tackle every day. When you have mapped out the steps and actions you need to take to actualize your vision, it is easier to move positively towards fulfilling them.
Batch Tasks to avoid time losses. Switching between tasks and activities requires a shift in mental focus that can result in lost time. Every time you stop your task at hand to answer an email that has just popped up, you are fragmenting your focus. Schedule tasks in batches so that you aren’t at the mercy of constant emails and phone call interruptions. Prioritizing your ‘to do’ list is also essential to planning your day. Choose to only check and answer emails at a few designated time slots. Perhaps you can plan to answer phone calls twice daily. You can create a slot once a week to look at employee training options.
Planning out your work week in batches will assist you to keep on top of your job commitments. A clear weekly schedule helps those around you to also respect your time. And whatever you do –DON’T multitask! You might think you can tackle a range of tasks in one go, but you’ll ultimately be wasting time because your output is of a lower standard and you might have to redo documents etc.
3. Schedule in Contingencies and Interruptions. Make sure that your batch task plan has included breaks to refuel as well as allowing time for any unscheduled events and potential interruptions. They are going to happen anyway so you might as well be realistic and add them in. Many people use the Pomodoro technique for scheduling breaks. It advocates working in 25-minute segments with 5-minute breaks after each segment (Pomodoro). You then take a more extended break after four Pomodoros, i.e., every two hours.
4. Create realistic ‘to do’ lists. If your ‘to do’ list is daunting, you might get overwhelmed by it. Don’t put down every single thing you have to do in the week –just focus on a realistic list of what can be achieved in one day. You will quickly become demoralized if you can never get on top of your tasks. You want to leave the office feeling like you have achieved something, not depressed from not completing an impossible to do list.
5. Assess Your Procrastination Gauge. Do you leave things to the last moment? Do you rush around doing a million things except for the tasks you need to complete? Just do them. Sit down and finish it. Break the habit of procrastination with constant action.
6. Analyze your time expenditure. It’s no good making schedules that you can’t execute. When you put a plan into action, track your daily activities to get an overview of the actual length of time it takes to complete a task. You could be underestimating the time it takes to complete a specific job. When you start to get a handle on the time each task takes, you can create a much more realistic plan for your work week. Keeping a time log which includes your fluctuating energy levels during the day, it will alert you to which tasks are best to schedule for which hours. When is your energy the highest? Plan to tackle the hardest tasks during this time.
7. Get Organized. Ensure systems that support your work requirements. You need to have well-ordered documents and folders on your computer for easy access. Your physical office environment must also be free of clutter with filing cabinets that are easy to access and manage.
8. Don’t be a solo hero. You are part of a team – delegate!
9. Aim for a healthy work-life balance. This requires saying ‘no.’ You won’t be able to be everything for everyone. Conserve your resources and energy for the most critical tasks. Don’t expend all of your energy saying yes to every request. An exhausted supervisor is of no help to a daycare center.
These time management tips, when implemented, will give you more ‘hours’ in your workday. You will tick off more items on your ‘to do’ list and feel a sense of constant accomplishment instead of hopelessness. Take the time to schedule your work day and week carefully, and you will win back the time to achieve great results.
Sholom Strick is an expert on the business of running daycare centers and founder of Hopping In, a tool that helps daycare centers earn more when children are absent.
To contact him or for media inquiries email email@example.com