Going back to school, even when we are at our most enthusiastic, can be tough after a long vacation. Especially when we have a list of tasks we have to complete. And when we haven’t seen our co-workers all summer and we need to catch up. And when our administrators and districts give us professional development classes when we just want to put up the alphabet posters in our room. It can be overwhelming when you enter your classroom on that first workday with chairs stacked against the wall and empty bulletin boards begging for life. Here are three tips to keep you at your most productive and to respect your working hours to get the very most out of them. After all, you don’t want to feel burnt out before your students have even arrived!
Do Not Disturb
It’s sounds so obvious, but truly it’s the one I have the most trouble dealing with. Well meaning friends, coworkers, parents, office staff, custodians and administrators wander in, sit down on a bean bag and start telling you about their summer. And I love them all, but I have a rule. When I am working, I am working. So I pin this note on my door and turn the lights out. And sometimes it works!
Don’t get me wrong – I want to socialize as much as the next person, and that’s why I love those long lunch breaks on workdays that we can only dream about on school days. But I enjoy them far more, knowing that I have tackled tasks on my to-do list.
Simplifying Your To-Do List
You have goals. You have lots of them. And when you write them down on your to-do list (I am a big fan of to-do lists – you can read more about them here) you go into crisis mode. There are too many things, too little time and you don’t know where to start first.
Begin by writing everything that has to happen before school begins on notepaper. Circle three of those items that need to get completed first. Write them on a post-it, put the big list to the side, and stick the post-it where you can see it. Focus on task number one on your sticky note, and only number one. If something else comes up related to other goals, put that to one side. If it is a new job, then add it to the big list. Get task number one finished first. And repeat.
When you finish all the tasks on your sticky note, trash it and go back to the big list. Circle the next three.
By organizing your to-do list in this fashion you are better able to stay focused on just one task at a time, knowing there is a system in place to deal with all your other goals.
It’s not fail-proof – someone will need your signature, you’ll need to fill in HR forms this very minute, they’ll be a last minute emergency meeting and these will all interrupt your flow. BUT as soon as you are back in your classroom you can immediately refocus and go back to your sticky note goals.
The Power Hour
The power hour is my favorite tool for the last hour before lunch or for the last hour before I head home. Take one of your goals, break it down into manageable tasks and commit to tackling them methodically for the next hour. We all know what a time vampire technology can be so no phone allowed, close it down and put it away for one hour. You will be absolutely amazed at what you can accomplish in one hour, and 60 minutes without your phone isn’t too scary! I promise you, this simple technique will leave you feeling energized, accomplished and powerful. You can do it!
I’d love to hear some of your favorite ways to tackle your workload – drop your ideas in the comment section below. Now, I really must get back to work…