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We all need time to stop and reflect, but that luxury can be hard to come by in our busy lives.  As a college professor, I find that one of the best things about having time between semesters to review and revise syllabi for my upcoming courses is that it compels me to think about what I want to accomplish in the coming months and academic year.
Right now I’m noticing an interesting phenomenon as I prepare for the coming semester:  I’m adding a time and task management component to every section of every class.  It makes perfect sense for my business communications course, which addresses many aspects of professionalism besides the writing and speaking components that students expect.  Who would think we would need this skill in other substantive business courses?

As it turns out, we need it in all of our business classes, everywhere.  Our students are inundated from all kinds of information sources: Twitter, Facebook, text messages, and even old-fashioned phone calls.  We are reminded by text message and e-mail to check in to see new posts from our online contacts.  Add to that streaming video, blogs, RSS feeds, and video games, and it’s easy to see where the time goes.  Once in this media universe, it’s tough to get out quickly.  As much as these social media provide opportunities to stay in contact with news and family or friends worldwide, they also provide fantastic opportunities to be distracted from daily events.  Students badly need to learn how to prioritize tasks and then schedule the time it takes to complete what they want to do.

I need to find the time and space in my courses to help students learn these skills.  If our education provides the foundation of good business practices, then we must teach our students how to use social media to their business advantage rather than letting it eat away at their time and productivity.

What else might students need to learn about the workplace before graduation?  I tell them it’s simply professionalism.  They must speak well, write clearly and concisely, dress appropriately, and exhibit the etiquette expected in the professional world.  They must know how to enter a room appropriately, shake hands and greet someone new, carry on a polite conversation, and listen well.  It’s fun to practice this in a classroom setting when we already know each other.  They must learn to be respectful of others’ time and attention, which means they must arrive punctually, with tasks completed, ready and willing to take on new challenges, but able to avoid over-committing.  To add to the Woody Allen line that “90 percent of life is just showing up,” I recommend “on time and ready to go, with promises kept.”  We’ll fit that in the syllabus somehow.