Being productive has been a recent buzz word in our society. We are told that in order to be successful, we have to be productive on a daily basis. This can look and feel different for everyone, depending on your responsibilities. We may want to get things done in order to meet a deadline or to end the day feeling as though we achieved something. Teachers are often swamped with a zillion things to do and may often become overwhelmed. Here are some productivity tips that can keep you feeling successful and accomplished on a day-to-day basis in your classroom.
Create a weekly schedule
You probably have a teacher planner that you use on a daily basis to keep yourself on task. Or you may have bought a planner with the intention to use it everyday at the beginning of the year and have recently abandoned it. Either way, we go into our classrooms with the intent to get things done but sometimes find that we have so much to do that it is difficult to complete one task. When you find yourself at this point in the year my suggestion is to ditch the planner. Yes I said it! You can still use it to plan out your lessons, but to plan out what I call your “star task” all you need is a notebook or sheet of paper.
Create a weekly schedule. Here are some common tasks that all teachers need to do on a weekly basis; grade papers, lesson plan, make copies, prepare homework, attend meetings and communicate with parents. Make one of these tasks your “star task” (main focus) for each day out of the week. If Mondays are the best days for you to prepare homework for the week then make that your star task for that day. Thursdays may be a good day to grade papers and update your electronic grade book, while Fridays may be used to make copies for the following week. Put yourself on a schedule and stick to it. Once the star task for the day has been completed then you have been productive. You may be so productive that you have time to check off some more items on your weekly to do list.
Setting timers has been a lifesaver in my classroom. After the star task for the day has been completed, begin tackling your smaller tasks. Go straight for your timer for these items because you probably have a limited amount of time left in your plan. Using a timer will keep you on task with what needs to be done. Just as we expect our students to complete task in a specific time frame, we have to do the same for ourselves. You may dedicate 15 minutes of your plan time a day to grading papers. Or you might use 20 minutes to plan for the next week. Spend the whole time being productive during this task. Once the timer goes off let it go and move on to the next one.
Turn off social media
Administration typically has the “no cell phone” rule during instruction. Lunch and planning time are a different story. Teachers often have flexibility when it comes to managing their time outside of instruction. Therefore, it is vital that this small amount of time is used wisely. After you have checked your messages or important phone calls, put the phone away.
You don’t want to fall down the social media rabbit hole during your precious plan time. It is so easy to get caught up scrolling through your social media sites and looking up to find that 20 minutes have gone by. Those 20 minutes could have been used to complete your star task. If you HAVE to check your social media then set a timer for 5 minutes. Once the timer goes off so do you. You want to work smarter, not harder. Use your planning time effectively by staying off the phone and on your “to do” list.
Learn to say “No”
Planning time is one of the most important parts of the day for a teacher. This is the time to get things done and be productive because it will fly by. You may often find that some teachers use their planning time to walk around the school, socialize or browse the internet. If you want to be a productive teacher, you have to learn how to say “no” to these things.
Do not leave your classroom unless you have to go to the copier or stop by the office. Instead, stay in your room and tackle your star task for the day. If a teacher is constantly coming to your room to talk about things that aren’t related to your job, learn how to say “no” to the conversation. Stating something along the lines of, “I need to get back to my lesson plans!” or “Can we chat about this later?” will politely let them know that you mean business.
Turn off the lights
Most days are filled with noise, movement and constant management of behavior. Sometimes the best way to be productive is to turn off the lights and de-stress for a moment. Turning off the lights is not only beneficial to our environment but it can help build your immune system because of the hormone melatonin. When the lights go off your brain is telling your body that it is time to rest. Don’t go to sleep, but take your planning time slowly. Slow down the body so that you can release some stress from your day.
These productivity tips have worked miracles in my teacher life. I hope that you have found them helpful and plan to adopt some of them. What do you do in your classroom to stay productive? What item on the list do you think you will start using today? Comment below. We would love to hear from you!