We all know the feeling.
I’m talking about the feeling when the bell rings signaling the end of your planning period.
What?! How?! Didn’t it just start…
The feeling of anxiousness that you didn’t get enough accomplished is all too familiar.
I’m sure I can speak for most when I say I hate that feeling. It’s awful.
Over the years, I have learned some valuable skills and tips to maximize productivity during planning time so that feeling is a thing of the past.
Today, I want to share some of the tips with you so that you can be as productive as possible during your own planning period. By doing so, I hope you can find yourself feeling a little less stressed.
Tip #1: Reduce distractions
It kind of goes without saying, but you need to eliminate all distractions. When I say distractions, I mean everything – colleagues, cell phones – ALL. OF. IT.
If you take away the distractions from the beginning, you will be setting yourself up for success. Essentially, this comes down to self-discipline and knowing what works for you.
Here are some things you can do to eliminate distractions:
- Find a quiet place to work and this may not be your classroom. Sometimes I find my classroom distracting because I think of all of the things I could be doing. In order to work productively, I will seek out another space in the school, such as the department work room or a quiet corner in the library.
- If you know that you usually end up talking to your colleagues, simply remove the temptation yourself. You can do this by closing your classroom door and putting up a “Do Not Disturb” on the outside of the door.
- Lock your phone in a drawer or put it in a closet or drawer across the room. I understand that there could be an emergency, so be sure to leave it on loud in case it rings and place it somewhere that is easy to get to, but out of your reach.
- Block out digital distractions on your computer. One of the first things I do is close all unnecessary tabs on my computer. If I see a million tabs open, it clutters my mind and hinders my work from being done.
Tip #2: Don’t check your email
The bell has just rung for the beginning of your planning period. You sit down at your computer and see you received an email from a parent. You decide to reply.
Next thing you know, you have spent your entire planning period knee deep in emails without anything else being accomplished.
While emails are important, they can easily take over your precious planning time. You know that there are more important tasks to tackle during your planning period, but emails still need to be answered.
There are a couple ways to handle this.
First, set specific email checking periods of time outside of your planning period, such as when you get to work or immediately after the last bell ends.
Just remember the time you devote to writing emails should all be within contract hours. *wink wink*
When you set these specified times, be sure to communicate it to colleagues, students, and parents. You can do this verbally or by using an automated reply that states the times you typically reply to email inquiries.
In addition, you need to prioritize emails when you are checking them. Be sure to flag or mark which emails require immediate attention and follow up with those first.
Make sure you are also unsubscribing to spam or senders that you no longer wish to hear from. Unsubscribing with help to de-clutter your inbox.
Tip #3: Complete a brain dump
I love a brain dump.
Whenever my brain feels clouded or overloaded, I do a brain dump and immediately feel some of the anxiousness go away.
If you’ve never heard of a brain dump, it is known as a technique that is used to help organize your thoughts.
This is how I complete a brain dump:
- I get a plain piece of paper or a blank document on my computer.
- Then, I just start listing everything needs done or is on my mind. This does not have to be categorized or laid out in a certain way. Simply just let your thoughts flow onto the paper.
- Once I feel everything is out of my brain and onto the paper, I then categorize them into related tasks or ideas, as well as prioritize what should be done first.
I always feel that a brain dump helps me structure my planning time more efficiently. Once I see it on paper, I can get going on the tasks and enjoy the feeling of checking items off as I go.
Tip #4: Time block
My last piece of advice is to utilize time blocking. Basically, time blocking is a method that allows you to assign specific amounts of time for various tasks.
It is important to identify the most critical tasks you need to complete during your planning period, such as lesson planning, making copies, grading, or reflecting on student progress.
For each task that you deemed to be critical, set a realistic time limit to spend on it. It is so, so important that you are realistic and don’t overcommit yourself.
Once you determine the time block for each task, make sure you stick to it. When I time block, I think of the block as a non-negotiable appointment with myself. I try my hardest to avoid rescheduling or interruptions, unless it is out of my control.
If you need a stretch/coffee break partway through, try the Pomodoro Method – for every 25 minutes of work, take a 5 minute break.
Maximize your planning time!
Through implementing these tips and tricks, I hope you find yourself making the most of your planning time.
By increasing productivity, you will find yourself accomplishing more and feeling less overwhelmed, which will make you an overall happier teacher.
It’s important to remember that you should treat your planning time as a sanctuary for innovation and impactful teaching preparation.
Do you have any other tips that I didn’t mention to help boost productivity? I would love to hear them!
I hope you have a wonderful day,