Kendell Dorsey, Dorsey Consulting Services
Grading, lesson plans, paperwork, email, phone calls, it goes on and on! Add a bad day to that and you can certainly feel overwhelmed quickly. When you have a moment of “free time” you can often become overwhelmed figuring out what to do first when it seems you have so much on your plate. We can often waste valuable time deciding what to do or juggling between multiple things not doing anything completely. Having a constant feeling of being unproductive can wear on you. On the other hand, have you ever had that euphoric feeling of being caught up and leaving for the weekend with no bag (in the car) of papers to grade? Hallelujah! 🙂
This post is for teachers, but certainly there may be others with similar concerns. Getting yourself to a place of productivity may require some mindset changes.
- You may not get all your work done within the scheduled work day.
- You may have to change habits that are time wasters during your work time.
- You may have to work differently.
- You may not get it all done.
Here are some steps to think about.
Step 1: Define your work day.
The ultimate goal is to leave work at work. It may mean you have to come earlier or stay later. However, it’s worth it to make the time sacrifice upfront so that you can have time in the evening and/or on the weekend.
You should determine what time you are coming and leaving work each day. This allows you to have a clear space of time to get tasks done. Some people are early birds, like me, and some like to stay after. Once you have an established work time, live by it. Your consistency in getting there and leaving “on time” will play a major role in your work life balance. Disclaimer: it may be before students come and/or after they leave.
Step 2: Determine a dedicated time to do tasks each day and/or week
Think about all the required tasks you have, have you set an appointed time to do such tasks within your week? Do you have a time to make phone calls? Do you have a time to do lesson plans? Do you have a time to do grading?
Lets’s be honest, for many teachers the designated planning time isn’t enough time to do all tasks given. Lunch time can also be a difficult time to get tasks done because it is short. In addition, you need and deserve the mental break. You can often lose valuable time having conversations, juggling between tasks or even trying to determine what you want to do with the time given. However, you can take advantage of these times by having a clear plan for those times and being focused about getting work done. Decide ahead of time what task(s) you are going to do during your plan and/or lunch and prep materials.
Carefully plan your before and/or after school time so that you can get the most of that time as well. Have you ever thought about what a perfect week could look like when you get all of your tasks completed. How could it happen? What would it take? Map it out! Create a generic schedule of your work time, then follow it closely. Make tweaks as needed. Treat those times like appointments where you must get there and get tasks done right away. Let’s be honest, life throws curveballs, but if you have a schedule to fall back on you won’t be too far behind when it does. I have created a basic sample and this template will be available below. Color coding is key! 🙂
When you have a schedule to fall back on, you won’t start grading during a time assigned for planning. But you would also have an assigned time to do it. There is something about knowing what you plan to do upfront, it makes you more productive. The old saying, “if you fail to plan you plan to fail.”
Step 3: What works best for you?
In Daniel Pink’s “When: The Scientific Secrets to Perfect Timing” he discusses the importance of knowing the times you work best and building your work around those times. I am an early bird. One year, I had a 1st bell plan. I would get to school early AND have 1st bell plan, I was super productive. BANGING! 🙂 Then I had 7th bell plan, OMG. I never got anything done, it was terrible. Plus, I was too exhausted by the end of the day. In jest, I would tell my staff I could feel myself getting dumber after 4 p.m. My wife, most likely, would be less effective with a 1st bell plan, as she is person who thrives later in the day.
Think about when and where are you most productive and build a plan that works around YOU! Consider environment too. Some people are not able to focus at home and will never be productive there. If so, it is important that you set a plan where your work is done at work. Inversely, some people may be more productive at home, place more time in the evenings and less at school. Make it work for you.
In conclusion, I strongly believe there is something to having a plan in place. You may not be able to work your plan all 5 days, but even if you get 3 good days in and you leave work with less to do you’ll feel more productive and happier.
What successful methods have you used to get tasks done?
Next in the series is about EMAIL! Coming soon! 🙂
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