The Life of an Adjunct: Avoiding High Anxiety With Better Time Management

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By Bruce A. Johnson, Ph.D., MBA

When you think about your weekly facilitation duties, do you feel prepared or do you experience anxiety? Adjunct instructors understand the importance of effectively managing their time. The basic responsibilities that are likely to be addressed each week include overseeing classroom operations, interacting with students through class discussions, creating a supportive learning environment that is focused on meeting students’ developmental needs, and meeting specific facilitation requirements such as completing feedback. This requires a significant investment of time, energy, and effort. Development of an effective time management plan requires an adjunct to find tools and techniques that help them to meet these requirements in a timely and productive manner. 

Start with a Review
A quick review of an instructor’s current time management plan is an effective starting point for determining strengths and areas of needed development. Select any recent class week and conduct a review of the weekly tasks and how those requirements were met. Here are some questions to consider:

A. Were the facilitation requirements completed on time, prior to the deadlines, or after the due date?
B. During this selected week were there any feelings of stress?
C. Were there any required facilitation duties that were not completed?
D. Were there any pending projects that were not completed?
E. What aspects of managing time for the purpose of effective classroom facilitation worked well? What aspects did not work well and how could those issues be addressed?

Time Management Focus

A time management plan is most effective when it is anchored to specific teaching goals. Instructors can assess their goals by answering these questions:
A. Is facilitation an obligation to fulfill each week or is the purpose of facilitation to spend the time necessary to create an effective learning environment? 
B. Should there be more time allotted to exceed the facilitation expectations if that is necessary to meet students’ developmental needs?
C. What weekly goal(s) could be established by devoting more time to the classroom?

Watch Out for Time Wasters

Any activities that would be considered unnecessary busy work are time wasters. Beblon Parks has identified two additional potential time wasters, including an “inability to say no” and “procrastination,” which includes leaving “a task until the deadline.” It is possible to avoid procrastination by having an organized approach to classroom facilitation.

The Specifics of Time

Establishing priorities is another method of effectively managing facilitation duties and developing a weekly plan. The most important facilitation tasks should be given top priority first. It is also helpful to schedule a specific time for working on the required tasks and if possible break down larger duties into smaller ones that can be easily managed throughout the week.

Planning Tools

Adjuncts who manage their time well often plan ahead; beginning facilitation duties early in the week to avoid missing deadlines and developing stress. Tools that can be utilized for weekly planning include a calendar, to-do list, and a schedule. K. J. Wagner has suggested using a daily planner that keeps all to-do lists organized or a calendar, offering this advice: “keep one calendar handy and write everything on it that you need to accomplish. Memories fail at times. Some teachers keep a planner on their desk at all times, some use large desk calendars. Whichever type you prefer, use it.” When developing a weekly plan it is possible to discover pockets of unexpected, available time. Use those periods of time to work ahead or evaluate progress made with the priority items for the week.
 
Dealing with Stress

The development of a time management plan can help instructors deal with potential stress because they are prepared, pro-actively working on their facilitation duties, and have taken control over the use of their time. Another method of eliminating the potential for stress is to analyze daily energy levels and consider what time of day is best for being the most productive. K. J. Wagner recommends that instructors should “not try to accomplish difficult tasks when you are tired,” and to “save those for your peak periods.” For a busy adjunct instructor it is important to recognize potential sources of stress and work through those challenges by adjusting the weekly time management plan as needed.

Once instructors have identified a clear understanding of the facilitation expectations and what they want to accomplish each week with the facilitation of their class they can choose strategies that help maintain their strengths and improve areas of needed development.  Having a time management plan in place, one that is focused on teaching goals and outcomes, will help instructors feel prepared and in control, while meeting and exceeding requirements that lead to an effective learning environment.

About the Mentor:  Dr. Bruce Johnson has had a life-long love of learning and throughout his entire career he has been involved in many forms of adult education; including teaching, training, human resource development, coaching, and mentoring. Dr. J has completed a master’s in Business Administration and a Ph.D. in the field of adult education, with an emphasis in adult learning within an online classroom environment. Presently Dr. J works as an online adjunct instructor, faculty developmental workshop facilitator, and faculty mentor.

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