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Prioritizing Time: Juggling for the Circus – Part One

Rarely do I work with an admissions team where someone doesn’t ask about time management. Admissions and enrollment staff are required to not only be jugglers, but they have to be exceptionally good at it. No one wants to be around the juggler who is constantly dropping and not keeping all the balls moving.

This is a two-part blog. This first part deals with establishing priorities and scheduling. The second part is where you add another ball into the juggling act, and have to deal with the unknown on a regular basis.

I always start with strategy when talking about best practices for time management. Ask yourself:

  • What are my immediate (short-term) and long-term goals?
  • How is my work being measured and evaluated?
  • What has the greatest impact on enrolling students?

Interestingly, the answer to all of these questions has to do with building better relationships with prospects. Best practice says that the time you spent building relationships toward enrollment is time well spent.

The trick is to figure out how to make time for relationship building amongst many other tasks and priorities, some of which are not your own. Let’s look at what is required in a given week and an average amount of time per week:

  • Meetings (staff) – 8 to 10 hours
  • Meetings with prospective students – 8 to 10 hours
  • Responding to emails and calls – 6 to 8 hours
  • Outreach to prospective students – 10 to 12 hours
  • Data entry or IT work – 3 to 10 hours

For most admissions recruiters, a scheduled week might allow for this. The juggling comes in when there are, “other tasks as assigned” (that pesky phrase at the bottom of job descriptions), special projects we are working on, and seasonal data entry or IT work.

Since each week is different, create a weekly calendar. When traveling, the week will look quite different than when in the office. It is recommended that you keep alongside your calendars a reminder of:

  • What your priorities are in general
  • What the priorities are for this week
  • What an average week should look like in regards to allotted time

Don’t forget to highlight what is most important. This is a constant reminder to keep your priorities straight.

Taking a few minutes on a Friday to do this calendar for the following week will be helpful. As you complete hours assigned to the task, decreasing the number of hours you still have left on the task is cathartic. At the end of a Monday you may have completed two hours of meetings, two hours of outreach, three hours of responding to emails and calls, and an hour with prospective students and families in your office. It feels really good to check off these hours each day.

What it also does is allow you to look at what you did not accomplish. Maybe you didn’t get to any data entry or IT work. That means you will need to step that up in the next two to three days.

I can guarantee that a few of you are thinking, “I already do this. No need to put it down on a calendar.” My advice is that most of us try to do this, but likely fail more often than not. Why? For starters, we get caught up in the moment, not the strategy. Time spent doing outreach to prospects is most important, but because it rarely has a specific time (like a meeting with colleagues, talking with a family after a tour, or getting back to someone who emailed today, it is easy to put off). Be sure that as you go through the week you make time for your first priority: outreach to prospective students. Schedule it the way you do a meeting or other tasks. 

Be flexible, or you will be stressed out by not accomplishing everything you want in a day. Be consistent or you will overlook your priorities. And be efficient, make good use of your time to accomplish all you need to do in a day or a week. If you do all three you will find yourself not only more efficient with your time, but a more effective recruiter because you are using your time wisely.

The second part of this blog is about how to allow for the unexpected and make that part of your day.

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Jeanne Gosselin,

Born and raised in the Northeast, Jeanne graduated with a B.A. from North Adams State College and an M.S.Ed. from Hofstra University. "The world of digital communication and social media gives us so much to work with when approaching prospects. The tricky part is finding a way to have real conversations."