A teacher’s work is never done. You’ve heard it before, and you’ve experienced it first-hand. There is always one more thing to do. One more lesson to plan. One more stack of papers to grade. One more parent that you should talk to. One more thing that you can do to make tomorrow’s math class even better.
It’s also a major reason that so many people leave the teaching profession. There are just too many things to do that take away from your job as a teacher.
But you know those people who just seem to have it together? They just get things done. When you look at them, you wonder how they do it. Well, they do have a hidden secret. It’s called prioritizing.
When I was given the opportunity to read Angela Watson’s new book, “Unshakeable,” I knew that this chapter was going to resonate with me. Productivity is an area that I have struggled with – as a teacher, as a mom, and as an entrepreneur. There is always one more thing. However, I know what a big difference prioritizing can make.
When I went back to the classroom after having my first child, I knew that things at work were going to have to change. Staying til 6pm every night wasn’t an option anymore. So I started prioritizing. I got more efficient. I did small things that made me feel more productive, and that made me realize that it wasn’t necessary to try to do everything.
Angela has a real gift for writing and shares some very practical tips in Chapter 4 – “Determine how to do what matters most and let go of the rest.”
These are simple strategies for increased productivity that you can implement right away.
She begins the chapter with a fantastic quote: “…one major difference between an effective, accomplished, confident teacher and one who is running around like a headless chicken is the ability to prioritize.”(p.49) How true is that?! How many times have you felt like that headless chicken? I know I have many, many times!
In Chapter 4, Angela shares many fantastic tips for increasing your productivity (and to make you feel less like that headless chicken). I’d love to share a couple of my key take-aways that I think can really help you in your day-to-day life, both at school and at home:
1. You can’t do it all. Angela suggests asking yourself questions such as, “What will happen if I do this later?” or “What would happen if I didn’t do this?” LOVE that. Honestly, the students don’t even notice so many of the things that we spend our time worrying about. Are all of those little details ACTUALLY important to the lesson?
2. YOU are in control of how you manage your time. There is no outside force causing you to be unproductive. You are in full control, and have the ability to prioritize your tasks in order to maximize your productivity.
3. Make lists. From my own personal experience, I know that to-do lists have increased my productivity substantially. I have tried a few different methods, and have settled on a weekly to-do list which seems to work well for me. Angela suggests prioritizing within your to-do list to make the process even smoother. For example, categorize your list into high, medium and low priority. I am definitely going to try this!
4. When in doubt, choose the kids. Obviously, the reason that we teach is for the students. But it is easy to forget that in a sea of papers, standards, and hard-to-achieve expectations. But we must remember that “the kids are the most important thing, and the work is secondary.” (p.61)
If you need more inspiration, motivation and encouragement in these final weeks and months of the school year, I invite you to follow along with us for this 20 Ways for 20 Days event. 20 different bloggers will be sharing their key take-aways from Unshakeable. You can see the full event information HERE.
And, if you’d like to read about these inspiring ideas in even more detail, I highly recommend Angela’s newest book, Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Everyday, No Matter What.” You can find more information about it HERE.