Looking at “Productivity Guides” from a Teacher’s Perspective

Mission accomplished! (Naomi's Photos)
Mission accomplished!
(Naomi’s Photos)

Every now and then I get caught up in reading “productivity posts” – posts on how to be efficient, get everything done and feel good. I’ve never quite figured out the secret behind that.

The trouble is, these posts always seem to be for entrepreneurs, or at least for people who work in an office.

But I’m a teacher.

The most recent post I read is a very impressive and detailed one : The Complete Guide to Productivity  by Sean Kim.  He writes well and I enjoyed reading it. Surely you can relate to the attraction of lines such as the following: “If you would like to make more effective use of your time, maintain your energy levels throughout the day, and achieve your goals faster — read on”. I did and I’m impressed .  However, which of his suggestions can work for me, as a teacher?

Conditions are far from ideal (Naomi's photos)
Conditions are far from ideal (Naomi’s photos)

For starters, the points about scheduling are interesting. I have no control over my school weekly schedule, though interestingly, most of the lessons are scheduled in segments of 45 minutes. Theoretically then, after every two lessons (the 90 minute cycle) I need a break (according to the article). Which I get, sometimes. Other times, I rush to photocopy something, talk to the home room teacher or a student, or do paperwork. If no one is misbehaving, yard duty can be a semi break… The breaks are not 30 minutes long, that’s for sure!

It’s a dilemma. If I sit and chat during the breaks I will be more relaxed. But that comes at the cost of bringing home more work that must be done in the evening!

Stop or go? (Naomi's photos)
Stop or go? (Naomi’s photos)

I’m at complete odds with the author regarding the morning routine! For starters, cold showers are unthinkable! Whose with me on this? But I also can’t handle the “don’t check your email in the morning” advice either. Sean Kim makes a great case for not doing it, but enjoying my email and social media feeds over breakfast, before school is a great way to start the day for me. While I do have a smartphone and take quick peeks during the day at school, it’s usually nothing more than peeks. Actually, this way, I often don’t check my mail when I walk in the door after coming home from school, in the afternoon (or at least I only continue peeking). That’s when I prefer to eat lunch and read a book for a while before focusing again.

Kim also says that creative work should be done in the morning.

Hmmm. Depends on how you define creativity.

Teaching is one kind of creativity, and I do most of that in the morning. Though not every lesson is creative, and certainly not everything that I do in a school day has any creativity in it. The other kind, simply cannot be done at school, is pure creativity. Activities such as inventing video lessons, figuring out how a new tech tool might liven up a class, photo posts, slide shows and more, all happen late at night. I (and most of the teachers I know) do not sleep as much as this article suggests!

I was startled by the evening activity related to the “not to do” list! It never occurred to me! However, I do write down my tasks much more often than in the past, as I have become more forgetful. I totally agree with Kim’s recommendation regarding the “any.do” task manager – so friendly and helpful! I use it all day.

One final point – I was totally unable to relate to the Pareto Principle in regards to teaching. Can you?



4 thoughts on “Looking at “Productivity Guides” from a Teacher’s Perspective”

  1. Fun to read Naomi, I suspect that a number of business people can’t do this either – it all depends on whether you work with other people and need to interact or are even dependent on them for getting certain things done. But these types of guides don’t usually work for teachers as we all know. And I am not sure the Pareto Principle applies to much that I do either – at least I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint where the 80 or the 20% is. When I taught elementary school in the States I probably spent more time dealing with 20% of the students then with the 80%, so needed more energy for a small minority than for the majority. Does that count?

    1. Everything counts, Marjorie! I feel better regarding the Pareto Principle now!
      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. I agree with most of what you say about Kim’s article and teaching.

    In addition, as another teacher who works with students with some sort of special needs, I can see how the Pareto principle may work in reverse when one needs to deal with those kids who easily may need much more of your creativity and tolerance than the bigger group.

    I guess that the article talks about productivity in terms of best times to work thus make a larger profit for the company. And we know that this is not the ‘raison d’etre’ in (special) education. So, while there are some good ideas, not all of them are applicable to us.

    1. Still looking for what works, that will be an ongoing thing. Thank you for your comments, Margie!

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