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September 1, 2014

Time Management is Good for Business—and Good for Your Life

Have you ever inserted a ‘starter’s time’ in your lesson book? Ever printed out a list of tasks you hate to do? Managing time requires unusual but valuable tactics

BY: DAVID GOULD

According to the bestselling author Elizabeth G. Saunders, “People who violate your boundaries are thieves—they steal time that doesn’t belong to them.” That quote from a Saunders book on “time investment” (she prefers the phrase over “time management”) echoed a suggestion you will hear if you attend any seminar or summit meeting for golf instructors. It boils down to this: “Part company with the highest-maintenance types in your life.”

The popular golf instructor can be his or her own worst enemy when it comes to managing time. The tendency to overbook, overcommit or let others overstay their welcome is an occupational hazard. Discussing this problem, coaches seemed to realize they need every trick in the book to keep breathing space in their schedules and balance in their lives. It’s a process that compares to large public high schools trying to save electricity and being unable to do it until they installed light switches with built-in timers. Likewise, to save water, big institutions had to install those faucets that automatically shut off after a few seconds.

Time comes in units, of course. For a professional who teaches golf that basic unit is one hour— or is it? It’s been suggested that an hour lesson really can’t mean the full hour. Instead, students have to be trained that by a quarter to the hour the session is ended. For that to be enforced, some teachers will have to emulate the high school light switch and set an audible timer that signals the formal end of the session. In general it seems that “the busier you get the more structure you need,” to use a classic time-management axiom. To enforce that structure you have to practice saying ‘No’ without actually using the word ‘No.’ That takes some creativity, mixed with compassion for the client.

For many busy directors of instruction, time management is critical to fatigue prevention and the quality-of-life watchword that says we must balance work and play. It’s been observed that golf coaches tend to schedule personal break time then renege on that promise to themselves. One wise tactic is to adopt the concept of the “starter’s time” and insert scheduled breaks into the teaching book—not in pencil but ink. For some teachers this will be a way of getting back on schedule and thereby accommodating students, rather than forcing them to wait. For most would-be time-managers that empty block in the book would end up providing some valuable “me time.” That could be quiet rest, or it could provide the opportunity for record-keeping, correspondence and general problem-solving during the normal work day.

The relationship between time and money will always get plenty of attention in these discussion. Brian Rogish, a PGA Professional from Farmington, Pa., notes that having “too many people on discounted programs” was an easily missed weakness in the teaching operation—one that silently forced more hours to be worked. That’s a logical move, but there is also a temptation to solve the lesson-book overload problem by herding a small group of students into your remnant time, thus turning several No answers into one Yes. Devan Bonebrake, a staff instructor at the Dallas-Ft. Worth headquarters of Jim McLean Golf, framed the time-and-money question in a global manner. “There is the larger question of how much teaching is enough and how much is too much,” he comments. “It’s probably worth sitting down with a piece of paper and calculating that X hours per week is a good maximum. You could also figure this out on a per-month basis or even for whole season.”

Some suggestions are extremely simple and practical. For example, having students set up their own stations along the lesson tee. This was seen as a good time-saver especially when teaching juniors. Making time for social-media communications is a hot button. Some teaching professionals feel that a few blocks of lesson time might be worth trading each week for social media time. Other teachers will tell you they are wary of social media’s capacity to consume excessive hours in the work week, given the 24/7/365 nature of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like Little tricks for efficient use of time were shared, one of the better ones being to type up and print out a set of “packing lists” to use for your various types of trips. It’s a tool designed to leave the mind mostly free instead of having to think about sox, sunscreen and sport coats. On the subject of printed lists, one expert in corporate productivity has suggested that you print out and perhaps even laminate a to-do list that contains only the things you don’t like to-do. The time-management sin of procrastination is usually a response to undesired tasks—having them on a list is a good reality check to set us in motion.

For the peace and quiet that provides optimal recharge of energy, some teachers like the idea of heading “off-campus” during the lunch period, getting to a quiet place, eating slowly, listening to music and otherwise lowering the stress factor. Turning off the telephone at bedtime is a similar “boundary” suggestion. Same with creating two versions of your calendar—one for you with all activities and empty blocks included and another version for colleagues or the public to see. Similarly, use your voicemail greeting as a specific guide to all callers regarding the timetable for your callback. Changing the greeting may be necessary more often than you realize, based on your schedule and whereabouts.

There is no end of tricks for operating more efficiently and bringing balance to your life, but it’s hard to predict which ones will work for a given professional. For that reason, the suggestion to “keep reading articles and books on time-management” was added to the suggestion box. By all means there is no shortage of commentary or quotable quotes on this age-old subject. One of the most resonant comes from the consultant and bestselling business author Peter Drucker. “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else,” Drucker observed. That’s a terse statement, and a true one—well worth remembering at any time of your season or career.