How Can This be Easy?

Making ELICOS Management Effortless

“Just be transparent with people; people aren’t stupid, so just be transparent with them”. A piece of advice that was bestowed upon me by a work associate of my partner, and a piece of advice that really resonated with me at the time. So here goes, I am going to be transparent with you.

I read a couple of great books recently that have inspired this blog post – the first is Essentialism and the second is Effortless, both of which were written by Greg McKeown.

In the realm of Academic Management, managers find themselves in the midst of multiple challenges, from conflict resolution, to recruitment of the right teachers, and maintaining compliance standards, while at the same time running a profitable college, and these hurdles often seem insurmountable. However, of late I have adopted a different approach when faced with challenging tasks and have been asking myself the question, “How can this be easy?” 

A Real Example

I will give you an example – most ELICOS providers issue casual contracts for the duration of the term (4 to 5 weeks for most) or the course to which teachers have been assigned (10 to 12 weeks on average). This means academic managers can be saddled with the arduous and time-consuming task of issuing multiple contracts on a regular basis, most of the time, on a monthly basis; not to mention, the time wasted chasing up unsigned contracts from the usual suspects that drag their heels. Don’t get me wrong, this is very doable if the college is small and does not have many teachers on deck, but what happens when you experience growth and you are issuing a large number of contracts on a monthly basis for a large number of teachers? So I asked myself the question, how can this be easy? The solution, issue the same casual contracts with a start date only, while retaining the same terms and conditions as before. This simple adjustment has been a real time saver for me, allowing me to focus on the more essential tasks and it would seem it has come as a relief for all the teachers too, who were constantly being pestered by the monthly request to sign the same contract. 

Automate

I am a big fan of leveraging technology to automate trivial tasks and hence freeing me up to focus on the more essential tasks that are required in ELICOS Academic Management. I have said this before about tech, a stitch in time, saves nine. Put in a bit of hard work implementing a system at the beginning and thereafter, you will save a lot of time. For example, leave applications. With large teams of teachers, it can be so challenging to keep track of leave requests. I used Microsoft Forms and Power Automate so that teachers complete a leave form electronically and this leave is approved electronically. After leave is approved, the teacher is notified via TEAMS and an electronic record is retained of all leave applications.

Minimising Distractions

Working as an ELICOS academic manager or a Director of studies can be stressful and hence some escape and/or distractions during downtime are needed, just to press the reset button in the mind. However, I was finding that distractions during downtime, especially from social media, were becoming insidious, and instead of helping me to reset and refresh my mind, the scrolling aimlessly was creating anxiety. 

One approach I have gleaned from reading Greg McKeown’s books is to leverage the desire to check my social media accounts, as a trigger to read and learn. I have used my impulse to check my TikTok or Instagram account during downtime as a cue to redirect my energy into something that enriches my knowledge. I have rediscovered the grounding state that reading brings, and instead of checking my social media accounts, I have been opening my Amazon Kindle app and instead of listening to music or ruminating about a disagreement I had with a work colleague when I go for a walk, I pick up where I left off reading, by listening to the audiobook version of the same book on audible. 

Reading during my downtime has grounded me and has enabled me to think more clearly about how to overcome tasks that I thought were insurmountable and reframe the question of, “How can I possibly get this done? to, How can this be easy?

Conclusion

The role of an ELICOS Academic manager will usually be intense and pressurised but it needn’t be stressful if one gets into the habit of asking the question, “How can this be easy”?