Efficiency
Professional Development

"If I Could Turn Back Time" - Cher

I went into teaching to make money,” said no one ever.


Education, be it elementary, secondary, or higher ed, is an industry that is both respected and not well understood in terms of the amount of time needed to do it effectively.  My first teaching job back in 2000 earned me a salary of $24,000 (which, when adjusted for inflation, is equivalent to earning just shy of $35,000). When I worked full time at a college for four years, I made $65,000 (the average faculty salary was $74,000) and did not see a raise during my tenure.


It’s not a secret that educators at any level do not earn as much as people who have the same level of education. We don’t go into education for the money. We go into it because we want to make a difference. We want to serve those who shall serve.


We also don’t want to have to boil the curtains to make soup for our families.


       “Time stays long enough for those who use it.“ – Leonardo Da Vinci

According to an article in edweek, over 20% of educators have second jobs to make ends meet. When I taught full time in Higher Ed, I always had a side hustle as a tutor, an ebay seller, and an instructional designer.


And, since we work 40 hour work weeks, an extra 10-15 hours is not an issue.


Say, what? 40 hours? Where did you get that, Ariel?


In 2014, a research study done at Boise State University concluded that full time higher education faculty work on average 60 hours a week.  And yet, many faculty have additional gigs to supplement their income. But, when do we do it?


If this conundrum baffles you…


If the data hits close to home…


Then I’ve got a solution for you!  


Too salesy? Yeah, you’re right.


But, what I will do is share some of my strategies that I learned over the 4 years I worked full time at Hebrew College  to find enough time to work both a primary and secondary job and enjoy time with family, friends, and other responsibilities I had not to mention carving out time for myself. Remember, there are only 24 hours in a day.

“No man goes before his time — unless the boss leaves early.“ – Groucho Marx


  1. Sleep more efficiently.


Our bodies need an average of 7 hours of sleep in a 24 hour cycle. Aubrey Marcus, CEO of Onnit, explores this statement in his book, Own The Day, Own Your Life and learned that the truth is we need 4-5 cycles of REM sleep in a 24 hour period. REM (Random Eye Movement) is the type of sleep that allows our brain to process all the data we have collected, categorize it, and place it in the appropriate memory banks.


Now, I don’t know about you, but  having a family, 3 dogs, and a home somewhat got in the way of my having the recommended REM cycles. I was sleeping on average 5 hours, going to bed around 11pm and waking at 415am. By 10am, I was on my umteenth cup of coffee. By 2pm, my productivity dramatically reduced. By 8pm I was toast, and yet, I still wanted to be with my family and walk the dogs, and had to complete whatever tasks ahead of me for my side hustle.


In Marcus’ book, he writes about listening to your body and then allowing it to do what it needs to do. In other words, if you are feeling exhausted, your body is telling you it needs another REM cycle. So, take a nap; according to research, it takes 90 minutes to complete a REM cycle. With meditation and other external stimuli about which Marcus goes into detail, it can be achieved in 30 minutes.  


When I started listening to my body, and found that if I took the time to fit in a REM cycle, I was good to go for another 3000 miles… or bedtime. I would shut my office door with a note saying, “Please do not disturb” and I would lay on the floor and take a nap. After 30 minutes, I woke up feeling refreshed and energized. I know this sounds cheesy, but it works. I was more productive, alert, and able to give 100% to all the tasks in front of me.


Now, of course, there were times when I wanted to take a nap but was not able to; it would’ve looked weird if I curled up onto the floor of the classroom or told the Dean, “Excuse me, but this meeting on the ethos of the 19th Century Bulgarian Enlightenment period is putting me to sleep and I need to take a nap.”  But, once I trained my body (or actually, once I started listening to my body), the “nap alert” would occur when I was able to grab it.

 

Time is a great forcing function and a great tool to help you prioritize: “To do two things at once is to do neither.” - Publius Syrus


2. Preplan


George Carlin, a famous comedian and narrator of the show Thomas the Tank Engine, has a whole routine of words that don’t make any sense. For example, he goes on a tirade about preheating the oven. How can an oven be preheated? It’s either heated or not.


Pre-planning means taking the time to plan out the day, week, or month. Just as you plan out the scope and sequence of your course, taking the same action for your tasks will help you. And there are so many tools out there - high-tech and low tech. I use a combination of Google Calendar, Trello, and Google assistant. I make time weekly and daily to plan out my week. I know it may seem counterintuitive to take time away from producing (writing, grading, researching), but the results speak for themselves. When I taught courses (live or online), I had specific times carved out for grading, responding to students’ emails, etc.  As a result, I worked more efficiently and effectively. I know you may be thinking that I am an isolated case, but there is evidence out there that claims for every 10 minutes of planning, you are saving close to two hours “in wasted time and diffused effort through the day.”  


Two extra hours is a lot of time! More time for research. More time for staying on top of your grading. More time to be with your family and friends.


And, I don’t just schedule work. I schedule everything: appointments, gym, walking the dogs, meal prep, and “me time.” I also build in transition time (5 minutes in between meetings; travel time). I do all this for two reasons:


  1. I find it very helpful as it keeps me on time. I am not rushing out the door because I took 5 minutes more to finish a sentence and then realizing that every slow driver in the world is in front of me and all the stop lights are conspiring.


  1. I share my calendar with students, clients, and potential leads. They can book time to meet or speak with me that works for them. This saves the back and forth of finding a time as well as gives me time to prepare.


“We realize our dilemma goes deeper than shortage of time; it is basically a problem of priorities. We confess, we have left undone those things that ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.“— Charles E. Hummel



3. Exercise


The great medieval scholar and physician, Maimonides, held the position that one must exercise the body AND the mind. The 20th Century Rabbi Solomon Schechter stated that all rabbis should know how to play baseball.


We all have heard the value of exercise and yet it is one of the first activities that is cut because we feel we don’t have time. Yet, studies have shown the benefit of exercise on all aspects of life, including work productivity. Carving out just 45-60 minutes a day for exercise can lead to an 8% productivity increase. If the average work day is 10 hours, going to the gym daily will lead you to gaining 48 minutes.  So, in essence, you aren’t losing any additional time by going to the gym!


Since I was 14 years old, I learned the benefits of working out. I lifted weights in my basement, roller-bladed in the summer, and fenced in the evenings. After college, I took up running. Four years ago, I joined a boxing gym and haven’t looked back. I take the 515am class (hence, the reason for my waking up at 415am) and am back home ready to take my son to the bus at 620am. My endorphins are pumping, my alertness is at its peak for hours afterwards, and I am ready to tackle whatever comes my way.



“I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.“ — Golda Meir


4. Tools to help teach efficiently


There are so many tools out there to help us teach more effectively. LMSs, rubric makers, video conferencing, Google Docs or MS Word, etc. They all are helpful in meeting students’ needs, individualized and personalized instruction, and breaking down the walls of a classroom (i.e., virtual, asynchronous learning).


But do these tools make professors work more efficiently? Well, I know that one definitely does.


Kaizena.


Kaizena’s voice comments can actually cut your grading time by 75%. By recording vs typing your comments, you are able to be 300% more efficient. And the bonuses are: (1) students can hear the tone, (2) process the information more effectively, and (3) students are more likely to respond or reply to voice feedback than typed feedback.


Now, this article’s point is on saving time. So, how much time is it saving?


In the 2014 article mentioned earlier, it breaks down the average time faculty are doing specific tasks per week (e.g., attending meetings, teaching, grading). According to the data presented, higher education faculty are spending an average of 7 hours a week on grading alone.


Using tools like Kaizena’s voice comments have evidence to reduce time to complete a task. 75% of 7 hours a week is 5.25 hours.


Let that sink in a bit - 5.25 hours.


That’s almost half a day’s worth of work.


Multiply that by 28 weeks (the typical number of weeks in two semesters) and that adds up to 73.5 hours, or the equivalent of a work week and change (assuming we stick with the 60 hour work week). If you teach year round, then the number jumps to 273 hours, or 4.5 weeks.


So, using Kaizena can give you 4.5 weeks worth of time back. Just for fun and curiosity, I researched the total number of higher ed faculty in the United States. According to the research there are approximately 1.5 million higher ed educators. If every single one of them was to use Kaizena, there would be a combined 400 million hours available each year.


That’s a lot of time.


Now, let’s refocus the lens on you, the individual higher ed professional. By saving a little more than five hours a week, you can devote that time to a side gig to supplement your income. You can also use it to meet with other faculty on projects. You can use it to do research on your field of expertise. You can use it to mow your lawn and your neighbor’s lawn. The choice is yours.


“He who lets time rule him will live the life of a slave.“ – John Arthorne


The point I am trying to make is that there are ways to find more time so you can either do your “have tos” or “want tos” or both!  Kaizena voice comments are a double bonus because in addition to saving you time, it provides for a method of feedback that is more effective than writing and results in a higher percentage of students acting on the feedback.



Want to learn more strategies? I am happy to talk with you. Want to learn more about Kaizena and the possibility of gaining back time. Again, I am just an appointment away.


Ariel Margolis
Ariel has designed innovative instructional and e-learning curricula for more than twenty years. He is Director of Student Support Services and Adjunct Lecturer in special education at Hebrew College.
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