128: Time Management

Portuguese: 128 : Gestão do Tempo

The biggest reason for time management is to make sure an officer is not feeling overworked, tense, or burned out as an officer.  The ideas presented below may be silly at times, or seem like common sense, but sometimes it helps to have the information written out. If you have a question about time management, or anything in  the Mind’s Eye Society, ask. Remember, there are no dumb questions; just unasked questions that get an officer in trouble later.

Determining and Creating a List of Responsibilities

Any new officer needs to figure out what things are required to be done and when and to organize them in a To-Do-List.

Some responsibilities an officer has to do are simple single one-time tasks.  Others are repeated monthly (like the monthly office report).

  • Access my Officer Email Address.
  • Be on and check email from domains/venue(s) mailing lists/required lists.
  • Check  the Restricted File section in the CRD.
  • Check Approvals in the Approval’s Database.
  • Check in with Assistants and Narrators.
  • Assemble the report as the month goes on.
  • Keeping plotlines in the Approvals DB for upper ST approval and/or distribution if needed.
  • Confirm the date, time and place of my first game (and those after that)  with the Coordinator staff if appropriate.

These are just a start of things that may be required; others may also be on the to-do list.  It is always a good idea to sit and make the list first when taking the office.

There are many tasks that are repeated each month. These can be dealt with easily through templates.  Officers never know what might happen, and in case anyone had to step into their shoes at a moment’s notice, they want that person to know what happened to that point.  It’s always a good idea to keep detailed records for the next person.

As a officer, one of the best tools is the report template.  If something changes mid-month, an officer can just change the on-going document to the update (such as a new email list was created, a new officer was hired, etc…).  Report templates help not only keep officers on task, but they also help them not forget promises that were made to players who have helped out via prestige awards.  Since these reports take time, it’s easiest to not only keep them updated as things change during the month (the Changeling VST steps down, and a DST has to appoint an interim, for example), but to also set a hard deadline a few days before the report is due in order to have it prepared early.  An officer isn’t always able to succeed with timely reports; sometimes a report needs other lower-level reports to be able to be filed and those officers are late, but that can be handled via setting schedules that include clear deadlines.

Prioritizing Core Responsibilities

There are a number of responsibilities that need to be done by an officer, which means that priorities need to be assigned to the tasks. The other responsibilities are specific to each side of the chain, but in general tend to include reporting, communication, checking emails and prestige.  Checking email allows an officer to know how the players/members feel and get issues that arise, rules that need clarified, and downtimes that need filed, or prestige reported acknowledged.  Answering back helps keep people happier than being left hanging even if it’s a “received.  Will examine in detail later.”

The best way to figure out what is the most important is to take the To-Do list, and arrange them in order of priority.  This will not be the same for each officer–the VST Lost might see downtimes as more important than reading national lists while the VST Mage might prefer to read the local lists first, then national and the approach downtimes knowing how plots are moving among the various levels of the chain.  Coordinators need to sort between prestige reports and DAs. Having a different priority of items is not something to feel awkward about.  Make sure that the admin is also on board with how priorities are listed to aid in keeping on track.

Something that will help set a priority of tasks is external deadlines. Report due dates, games and meetings will help you as an officer determine what needs to be done first.

Delegating Responsibilities

Not all tasks are on the officer’s shoulders alone.  Hiring assistants is one of the high priority things an officer can do. Each officer will determine what assistance are necessary, but some of the common roles include an admin, prestige, arbitrations, venue specific storytellers etc. .  Lower level officers like chapter coordinators or venue storytellers can merge specific officer roles and hire general assistants to help.

Some examples of a VST Requiem’s assistants and division of labor is:

  • aVST-Admin: answers all game questions and rules questions pm’ed to him/asked of him during games from the players in order to help keep the VST from being overwhelmed, or a player from feeling ignored.
  • aVST-Tech: makes game announcements, deals with any digital media (such as an online game sets up channels, wikis or Google docs; or for a larp a PowerPoint with sign in announcements), and makes sure things flow well mechanically.
  • aVST Downtimes; or an aVST plots: Helps narrate scenes or deal with downtimes

Some examples of a DC’s assistants and division of labor is:

  • aDC Admin: deals with general tasks as they arrive and is the second point of contact. This position should be aware of everything going on in the office in the event they would need to step in somewhere to help.
  • aDC Web: Runs the domain’s website, wiki and email lists.
  • aDC Prestige: Handles prestige reviews and prestige tracking
  • aDC Charities: Handles all charity drives for the domain

Any responsibility can be assigned as an officer sees fit. Don’t add to reasons for burnout by trying to do everything alone.

Scheduling – Using your time and others wisely to minimize time consumption, further explanation of policy setting.

The to-do list is just a beginning.  Taking that to-do list and building a timeline and a planner around it is a huge help.  Google-calendar can be used to schedule when the needed tasks have a deadline to be completed by. This helps  an officer remain on-task through the month.  Google even provides invitations (for sub-officers beneath to know deadlines set for them, for example), and reminders for events.  If the same date is used  each month (or 3rd Saturday of each month, or every two weeks like clockwork), it’s possible to create it as a reoccurrence, and make it easier to think beyond the month.    Spacing things out can help the officer to not be overwhelmed.  Procrastination is a major cause of burnout because it leaves tasks needing to be done in a rush, under pressure.

Streamlining activities

Any officer should see where tasks blur into each other.  It’s not necessary to treat them as separate tasks, and keeping them simple helps an officer organize their time.  Having office hours each week/month can help an officer combine tasks that need to be handled.   It also lets everyone know when the proper time and place are for communication.  Emails are also a way of communicating, and knowing that the officer checks emails each morning, or after work each night can ease the minds of those that email him/her.  Having set times and routines can aid both the officer and the players/members.

It is wise to break things up through the month.  Keeping things easy is the goal, and spacing out things leaves little to do at the end of the month when reports are due.  There are times any officer will be allowed quiet time at events, car rides, and other situations.  To save time having to be taken later, it’s an amazing chance to do work with the hat on.  It not only keeps the mindset of the hat, but also has many of the members/players that need the officer in the same space.

Dealing with Stress

Stress can hit anyone.  It can be less harrowing if a sense of humor can be used with it.  All officer positions should include the ability to laugh at oneself; everyone makes mistakes.  It’s impossible to be an officer and not make one.  The most important thing about stress is that you should take a break before it becomes overwhelming. When you feel stressed, step away from game and spend time with friends, family or blasting things on the computer.  Frustration will occur, and all officers need something to vent this.  Game systems or  MMO’s are wonderful; officers can go attack things until the frustration is reduced.  Many things can cause that frustration; have faith that all officers are exposed to the varied ways to have it add up.  No officer is unique in that feature.

Other ways to redirect stress are:

  • yoga
  • running/walking
  • biking
  • foam sword beatings
  • rattan swords (SCA)
  • Martial Arts
  • Tai Chi
  • Meditation
  • Cleaning homes or cooking
  • Knitting, sewing, or crafting
  • Reading
  • Music

All of these work for different people, but they all have something in common–helping an officer escape the stress and re-centering.  It makes it easier to return to the world of make believe when the officer is ready and less frazzled.

Remember, this is just a game.  Do NOT EVER let stress take over.  If it gets to that point, talk  to someone who can help you—a fellow officer, your supervisor, even your admins. That is the first step towards avoiding burnout. Having that support is important.

You are NOT alone, and you have folks that have dealt with things before that can help you.  Just ask.