The last several weeks have provided me wonderful experiences:

  • Presenting to Alabama assistant principals at two live conferences
  • Presenting to Illinois administrators in a three-hour webinar
  • Presenting four sessions to Alabama National Board Certified Teachers at their annual conference
  • Presenting four sessions for Mississippi educators at their annual educational technology conference

While their locations and roles in education may have differed, these groups have in common 3 important concepts:

  • They are all interested in ideas, particularly in the area of technology, which are relevant and can be implemented immediately.
  • They will all leave the convention atmosphere of excitement and return to lives where emails, voice mails, and paperwork have been accumulating in their absence.
  • Their abilities to implement what they learned will be directly related to their abilities to organize their surroundings and manage their time.

When we step back into our lives, the conference bag is often thrown into the corner until we “have a chance to get to it.” Months later, the notes have grown cold, the ideas have faded, and good intentions turn into guilty promises to do better next time.

Two tools provide the structure that will turn good ideas into regular parts of our daily lives. Both are tools which are regular topics in my presentations on organization and time management at conferences just such as these.

The Journal
When I attend a conference, my journal is one of the items thrown into the briefcase. It’s nothing more than a bound book of blank lined pages. The magic is that the same journal opens every time I send or receive a phone call, every time I meet with someone where topics of significance will be discussed, and every time I join a group setting where I plan to learn something or come away with commitments to myself or others.

Where one day leaves off, the next one begins. When I attend a conference session, I am not at a loss to know where to write things down. Just open the book to the next blank line and start writing.

As I write, “to-dos” will occur to me. I write those down along with the other notes. I help myself by putting an asterisk (*) beside anything I write that is not just a piece of information, but is instead a “to-do” for me. With a plan as simple as this, I can keep up with the speaker and make sure I leave the session with the ideas I need in order to implement great ideas trapped in the pages of my journal.

The To-Do List
Later in the day, when the dust settles, I revisit the journal. My responsibility is to look at what I wrote during the day and decide exactly what I need to do about any of it. The results of those decisions goes on my to-do list. I word them clearly enough that I will know exactly what I was talking about tomorrow, a week from now, or a month from now.

I do not re-copy the notes from the journal. If I have details in those notes needed when completing the “to-dos” on my list, I put the date the notes were taken in parentheses beside the appropriate item on my list. When I look at the item on the to-do list, the date in parentheses say to me, “Look here for information.”

Most importantly, I make a decision as to when I want to see that to-do and assign it an appropriate due date. Cleaning up email, voice mail, snail mail, unpacking, and putting out fires which erupted while away at the conference will always take precedence over the creative ideas learned during the conference. So, we need to be realistic. When will we have the time to give the new ideas and their implementation the time they deserve? Assign a date. Now go about the process of clearing the backlog which accumulated over the last several days.

Rest assured your to-do list is going to make sure the good ideas you learned at the conference are not forgotten.

Our roles differ. Our noble aims, and the tools with which we accomplish them, are much the same.