• Shayna Sheinfeld, Ph.D.

Short on Time? —Multiply it by asking Four Questions

In a TEDx talk, Rory Vaden discusses the problems with current approaches to time management. Rather than try to manage time, he says, you need to manage yourself.

While I would encourage you to watch the 18-minute TEDx talk, since we are all short on time, I'll touch on the four questions that time multipliers (Vaden's term) ask of the items on their to-do list:

1. Can I eliminate the task? Remember saying "yes" to one thing means saying "no" to many others.

2. Can I automate the task? For instance, it takes time to set up online reading quizzes and/or tests, but you can then use the same quiz/test, with perhaps minor changes, the next time you teach the class. Think of how much time this would free during the semester. That's worth a time investment!

3. Can I outsource the task? Whether it is delegation or teaching someone else how to do it, this option is especially good for grading, my academics friends.*

4. Should I do this task now, or can I do it later? Vaden calls this intentional procrastination—sometimes it pays to put off that task on the to-do list.

To sum up: Some things don't need to be done. Some things can be automated. Some things can be outsourced. Some things can be pushed off and tackled later. That's it.

*Personal note: I've paid a trusted college-aged student (who was not affiliated with the class or institution in which I was teaching) to grade certain things for me, including short essays. We go over the material together, go over general possibilities for the correct answer(s), and then I let them have it. They grade in the space where I am working, and ask questions if they come up—including any question on how to grade something. I pay about $10/hour for this, and I have never once regretted it.


This blog post is a summary of the recent article by Mary Halton, an approximate 7-minute read.

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