Tanya Zaccone | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Tanya Zaccone

Background:  

The California Language Teachers’ Association is a statewide organization of public, private and post-secondary school language teachers. CLTA provides support, leadership and a vision for quality World Language and Culture instruction in California.

The Mistake:

Trying to oversee an organization while working from home can be hard work.

When I became executive director here, it was supposed to be a part-time job that I could perform at home. That was good, because I had retired from teaching, and was looking forward to being able to do things I never could before – basic things like being able to have an actual breakfast. The thought was, eat first, then start work.

But when I did that, I found out that actually getting to work took longer and longer. I couldn’t get as much done, because I’d start later in the day. I would look outside and see things that needed to be done in the yard; I’d look around the house and see things that needed to be taken care of. It was actually a form of denial – sometimes, it was just easier to get those “other” things done than what I actually needed to work on.

So I’ve learned to really manage my time at home. and that was huge when it comes to overseeing CLTA. There have been times when there were projects that had to get done – things that before could have been easier for everyone if I had been more meticulous about managing my time. I certainly would have had a much-easier transition.

I’ve learned to really manage my time at home, and that was huge.

The Lesson:

Before CLTA, I was a teacher. Plans are a big part of what you do. But you can’t just say, “One class tomorrow needs more attention than another.” So, in terms of my thought processes toward planning, everything was equal. Prioritizing was very challenging for me.

Then there was the work at home element. I really didn’t understand how to do it. Sure, I was busy at home, but I was always doing something that was prescribed for me to do. All my grades are due, I need to get my lesson plans done, I have to fill out this paperwork for the field trip – it was all prescribed. I did a lot of it at home, but I didn’t have to think about what it meant to work at home.

I now do more of my prioritizing at the end of the day. I also always check my email before I go to bed, and I set a start time for the next day. It might not always be the time as the previous day, but I always have a start time.

I also try to compartmentalize and say, “I’m going to take this time for myself.” Aside from reducing stress, it helps me use my time better because I know I have those small chunks of my day available to me.

Of course, there will be situations where something critical comes up, in which case there may be no “me” time. You have to accept that and not feel resentful toward the job.

That last part of the transition was a little bit harder. I didn’t become executive director until a little while after I had retired. So I had a little taste of “Let’s do a little bit of this, a little bit of that.” I really had to buckle down – it took some real self-discipline.

I think I’m doing much better. I really don’t want to boast that I’ve come to any conclusion that I do it well. But I do it better than I used to.

 

Follow CLTA on Twitter at @CLTAtweets

Pictured is Tanya Zaccone. | Photo courtesy of Tanya Zaccone.

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