Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Preventing Staph Infections

So what does a staph infection of the notorious "Super Bug" have to do with a blog related to time management and organization? Glad you asked!

I can hardly turn on my television without hearing about an outbreak of staph or horror stories about its effects. If I listen to enough of it, I am almost afraid to leave the house for fear of how I might be infected at every turn.

Thank goodness for those who do not stop there. They go a step further to tell me how to prevent infection. More importantly, they make it easy enough that I will actually do it: Wash your hands and put a Band-Aid over open wounds. That sounds simple. I can do that!

This simple advice reminds me of the "Pareto Principle." Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist around the turn of the 20th century. Pareto observed that 80% of the wealth of Italy was held by 20% of the population, and that the remaining 80% of the population accounted for only 20% of the wealth. That observation has become known as “Pareto’s Principle,” or the “80/20 Rule.” It has been applied in many circles. A salesman may find that 80% of his sales are made to 20% of his customers. In your school, you may find 80% of the discipline problems coming from 20% of the students.

How can I ensure I will not contract the “Super Bug”? News accounts are full of detailed cleaning measures I could take. In fact, taking measures to avoid the infection could turn into a full-time job. Instead, I could pay attention to the Pareto Principle. Washing my hands and covering wounds won’t give me a 100% guarantee, but it does give me something simple that will greatly reduce my changes of infection..

What is going on in your life that seems to be taking 80% of your time yet yielding 20% (or less) of your results? Get rid of it! OK, maybe easier said than done. Let me rephrase. Examine it—closely. Some may have to stay. Some has been hanging around because that’s the way you have always done things.

Less time spent on what does not matter leaves more time to spend on that 20% which yields the 80% of your results. When is the last time you washed you hands? I think I will go do that now!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Clock's not right? Leave it alone!

This morning was a little perplexing. The alarm clock beside the bed said one time. The VCR in the same room, however, read one hour earlier. Likewise, the time on the security system also displayed a time one hour earlier than the alarm clock. Extended Daylight Saving Time strikes again! The makers of our VCRs, computers, security systems, and the like did us a favor by programming them to automatically adjust for Daylight Saving Time. But then, Congress came along and changed the starting and ending dates for DTS!

I have written about this new wrinkle which entered our lives in the spring with posts here and here which talk about preparing ourselves. What if we didn’t prepare? What if we wake up and find clocks displaying the wrong time? I have an easy answer for you---do nothing! Let me clarify that one: Do nothing--at least for now.

Yes, you could go and manually roll the time forward on these various time pieces and have every clock in your world in perfect sync. Guess what will happen in exactly one week? When DST does kick in, you are going to have to turn right around and set each of these timepieces back one hour. So, “Part 1” of my three-part advice is to simply leave well enough alone. In one week, those time pieces are going to be reading the correct time. You will probably also find that your newer electronic devices will self-adjust.

My second piece of advice applies to those of us who live by digital calendars such as the one on Outlook, BlackBerry, or Palm. Be aware that the appointments for the next one week may be an hour off. In addition, since the time displayed may be an hour off, any alarms you have set are also going to chime an hour too soon. My point is that for exactly one week you need to double-check appointments so that you know which entries are the "real deal" and which are the imposters.

Finally, you can steps to prepare so that when arrives March, the Extended Daylight Saving Time bug does either does not strike, or its effects are minimized. (Remember, in March, DST kicks in 3 weeks earlier than before.) The earlier links in this article describe a patch for the BlackBerry which fixes the problem. Microsoft has addressed the issue concerning computers in articles such as this.

The good news is you don’t have to do any of this now. You have until March (but be sure to jot something in your signature tool now, while you are thinking about it). Who knows, by March, you may have replaced that VCR, computer, coffeemaker, security system, or fancy wristwatch anyway!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Managing school the easy way—Part II Break big projects down into little parts.

As adults, we remember fondly the English teacher who assigned the term paper (due 2 months hence), and then said, “I want you to turn in your topic this Friday, and outline the next Friday, a dozen note cards the next Friday...” That teacher knew that left to our own devices, we would put off the seemingly overwhelming task until the last minute and then throw something together. She made us break the big job into manageable parts. What are the big projects for our students? Perhaps making the Accelerated Reader “100 Club,” earning the badge in scouting, or making a sports team are a student’s goals. For each one, there is a very next step. When the little steps are defined and handled, the big projects fall into place.

A student planner is the perfect tool for project planning. Begin by turning to the date the big project is due. Put that due date in the planner. Now start working backwards from that date. Assign a date for each step along the way and write in the appropriate square in the planner. Before you know it, you will have working your way to the beginning of the project and have deadline for taking that first step. As the old saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Therefore, the second step towards managing school the easy way is to break big projects down into little parts.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Managing School the Easy Way (Part 1)

A number of years ago, I composed an article for a parent newsletter entitle "Managing School the Easy Way" when I was serving as principal at Graham Elementary School. I am breaking that article down into 5 relative short posts, the first of which appears here.

Managing School the Easy Way (Part I)

Experienced teachers will tell us that school success and intelligence do not always go hand-in-hand. Often, very bright young people don’t remember to do assignments, lose their work, and spend inordinate amounts of time frantically looking for things on a messy desk.

At the same time, other students breeze through school. They seem to make school look easy, but not because they are necessarily smarter than their peers. They have acquired some very easy, very teachable habits. Over the next several weeks, I will share some suggestions which make navigating school much easier.

The first of these tips is to write down the things you have to do as soon as they occur to you. Try to simply remember everything you have to do and you are headed for trouble. Even young people today have many activities on which you must focus your attention—homework, athletic practices, family activities, and chores are just some of the obligations you have. The easy thing to do is let pencil and paper do the remembering. Get it on paper and you can get it off your mind! A student planner is the perfect tool for this purpose. The big advantage of using such a book is that all commitments are in one place.

The planner should not just be for school assignments. It can and should be the one place which traps every responsibility you have. As you list athletic games and practices, after-school activities, school projects as well as day-to-day assignments, you begin to see the big picture and can begin to budget your time.

Therefore, the first step towards managing school the easy way is to write down things you have to do as soon as they occur to you.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Dribs and drabs" and chunks of time

The Effective Executive by Dr. Peter Drucker ranks as one of my all-time favorite books. Copyrighted in 1966, its advice in the area of time management rings even truer today than it did 40 years ago. “Effective executives…do not start with their tasks. They start with their time,” say Drucker.

One of my favorite lines from the book is when Drucker says, “To have dribs and drabs of time of time at his disposal will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours.” The point is that we cannot get anything of real value done without “time in fairly large chunks.”

Finding those fairly large chunks of time is difficult for those in the school business. For teachers, most have only a 30-minute block of discretionary time per day. Administrators often find their days so fragmented that nothing is accomplished by the end of a day.

Difficult, yes. Impossible, no. Thank goodness that answer is no! Once we give in to the notion that our days consist of fragmented “dribs and drabs,” we must give in to the notion that we will simply not be effective in our jobs.

Who and what are the obstacles which stand between you and those large chunks of time? Keeping that thought first and foremost in your mind for a few days will quickly reveal answers as your day unfolds. Postponing checking e-mail, letting voicemail catch the phone calls, and closing the door to dissuade drop-in visitors are time-honored techniques. Above all, if you had the large chunks of time, what would you do with them? If the answer to that question is hazy, there will be little motivation to make tomorrow any different than today.

On the other hand, if you have a passion for a project, the project has been planned, and you know exactly where to jump in, somehow the ability to block out of the rest of the world becomes easier.

What’s your passion right now? What’s standing in the way of your pursuing it? What are you waiting for? Turn Drucker’s “dribs and drabs” into large chunks of gold!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Extended Daylight Saving Time Revisited

The Daylight Saving Time Problem is still for real! I had written about this problem back in the spring. That post is here. The idea is this: Beginning in 2007, Daylight Saving Time starts 3 weeks earlier and ends 1 week later than in previous years. This year, Daylight Saving Time ends on November 4th.

What that means for many handheld users is that they will need a "patch" in order for the time to show correctly on their handhelds. Without the patch, the time on the handheld will "fall back" a week to early.

Are you a victim of the Extended Daylight Saving Time demon? To find out, look at appointments you have on your handheld between October 28 and November 3. Look at the same appointments on Outlook. Are the times the same? If so, your device is OK. If the two are an hour off, you will need a patch.

  1. For BlackBerry users, to get the patch, do this:
  2. Close BlackBerry Desktop software
  3. Disconnect Blackberry from computer.
  4. Go to http://www.blackberry.com/DST2007/patch/index2.shtml
  5. Scroll down until you come to a link labeled "DST Patch Loader" and click the link.
    You will get a message asking you to install an Active X Control. Click on the yellow strip at the top of the page to allow this to happen.
  6. Connect your BlackBerry to your computer.
  7. A button will appear that says "Install DST Patch." Click on it.
  8. The patch will download. Be patient. The process will take several minutes and the little "progress bar" may appear to be frozen, but do not worry. Just give it some time.
  9. When the process finishes, you are returned to the the screen that has the button asking you to install the DST Patch. It sure would be nice if you got some sort of message telling you that you were finished, but you don't. I am sure there are going to be many people who hit the button again, but at least YOU won't be doing that.
  10. You can now disconnect your BlackBerry from the computer. You will find that a little hour glass is spinning on the screen. It may spin for 15 minutes. Don't worry. When it finally stops spinning, you are done!

At this point, the appointments on your BlackBerry and those on Outlook will at the least be the same. It does not mean they are correct. You will need to look at each one to determine if it is correct or an hour off. Make corrections as needed. The next time you sync, the corrections will transfer.