Time Management: Hello, Productivity!

This past fall, my husband became quite angry with me because I was ALWAYS working, but getting NOTHING done! Sound familiar? He lovingly pointed out that I am not very efficient when cleaning; I bounce from room to room, never finishing anything I start. He noted that I was probably practicing these same habits with my work. I’ll admit, he was right! So I did some research on productivity and found a wealth of strategies. I began applying them to my life and realized that these tricks do in fact work!

So I wanted to start off the New Year by sharing my favorite productivity strategies with you!

1. Have a Daily Action Plan

  • Spend 10 minutes at the end of each day mapping out what needs done the next day.
  • Don’t wait until you get to work to figure out what you need to do or who you need to call. Instead, spend the last 10 minutes of each day developing an action plan for the following day so that when you arrive at work in the morning, you can hit the ground running.
  • Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list.
    To-do lists can become overwhelming and endless (I know this from personal experience!). Rather, find an alternative that helps you prioritize your tasks. My favorite three options are below.

      A. Prioritize Your Work: Use the “Rule of 3”

Rule of 3

  •  This tool asks you to identify 3 outcomes you want to achieve this year, 3 outcomes  you want to achieve this week, and 3 outcomes you want to achieve each day. I love the reflection piece on the right-hand side, which allows you to identify what is going well and what can be improved. (Credit: lifehacker)

     B. Pick 3-5 Things You Must Do Each Day

1-3-5 ToDo List

  • Along the same lines as the Rule of 3, this form asks you to identify 1 big thing, 3 medium things, and 5 small things that you want to achieve in one day. Yes, it is difficult to limit yourself to 3-5 tasks per day, but by doing this, you are ensuring that you are accomplishing what NEEDS to be done instead of what just HAPPENS to get done! I was extremely guilty of this, always conquering the tasks that didn’t really matter and putting off those that were important but daunting. {I’ll talk more about overcoming this challenge in a moment.} The bottom line is that there are only so many hours in a day and you can only accomplish a finite number of tasks, so be realistic in your endeavors. (Credit: Daniel Pepin, The Muse)

   C. Sneak Peek


  • This weekly calendar is my favorite tool! Ms. Houser, another Instructional Coach whom I follow religiously, created this awesome document. I love that it allows me to choose 3-5 tasks per day, but map them out over the course of a week. I also like that there are multiple categories on here: home, school, materials to prepare, emails/calls/follow-up, etc. (Credit: Ms. Houser)

2. Do Your Most Dreaded or Difficult Task First

  • Author Brian Tracy calls this “eating your frog,” which actually derives from a Mark Twain quote: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
  • Remember how I said my important yet daunting tasks never got done, but all the insignificant ones were knocked out immediately? Yep, I was not eating my frog! This has been one of the most beneficial tips I have found. By accomplishing my most dreaded task first, I have the rest of the day to focus on other things, free of worry. I hate having the pressure of a difficult task looming over me all day long, so I highly recommend this strategy!

3. Chop Up Your Time

  • Chop time into 15 minute intervals, which makes each hour seems 4 times as long, and in turn, leads to productivity!
  • Create Power Hours
    For example, you can spend 15 minutes grading, 15 minutes logging, 15 minutes updating PLPs, and 15 minutes updating IAs as a Power Hour. You could replicate this Power Hour each and every day, which would allow you to slowly chip away at these tasks instead of spending an overwhelming amount of time on each.

4. Be in Tune with Your Body

  • Your mind and body will get tired of a task after 90 minutes to 2 hours focused on it. Again, think back to the Power Hour. Grading essays, however, requires a significant chunk of time and wouldn’t really fit into a Power Hour. But be cognizant of your mental clarity as you spend extended periods of time on one task.

5. Schedule Breaks According to Tasks Not Time

  • Breaks should match up with the large to-do chunks on your action plan, not a specific time.
  • Taking a break while working on a major task will only break your flow.
  • But be cognizant of your mental endurance.

6. Limit Email

  • Check email in concentrated blocks of time no more than 3 times per day.
  • A recent LinkedIn survey found the average worker spends 13 hours a week, 28% of the workweek, on email!
  • Once distracted, it takes the brain 23 minutes to recover. A single email can set you back 30 minutes!
  • This was the biggest life-changer! I must admit that I struggled with this concept at first, worried that others might think I wasn’t working if I failed to respond within 10 minutes. But my job is not a professional emailer and neither is yours! So be confident in yourself and your work and establish set email-checking times.
  • Think of all the useless emails we get in one day. For example, I took a few days off before and after the holiday break and returned to over 200 emails in my inbox. Only FOUR of these emails pertained to me specifically. Talk about distractions!
  • This also goes for webmail. We tend to get the same questions over and over and over and over again, making us want to bang our heads off our desks, right?! By checking your webmail at specific times, you can mentally prepare and pump yourself up. Knocking out those webmails at one time will be better than spreading them out like butter on toast throughout the day.

7. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule”

  • If a new task comes in and can be done in 2 minutes or less, DO IT right then!
    Don’t add tasks to your ever-growing list of things to do. If it can be done quickly, do it!

8. Stop Multi-Tasking!

  • Multi-tasking has been scientifically proven to be ineffective.
  • Focus on only ONE task in short periods of time.
  • Again, think of the Power Hour ;)

9. Find Your Golden Hour

  • This is the time when you’re at your peak.
  • Protect this hour so you’re able to do your best uninterrupted work.
  • My golden hour happens to be early in the morning, so I like to “eat my frog” during my golden hour, yielding remarkable success and a strong feeling of accomplishment throughout the rest of the day.

10. Adjust Your Schedule

  • Find what works best for you and your students.
  • Many HS teachers are choosing alternate schedules, working later in the day when they are better able to reach their students. We are an a-typical school so think about working an a-typical schedule if it better meets the needs of you and your students.

11. Keep Certain Days Clear

  • Choose one day a month to play catch up. Keep your calendar free of lessons, meetings, and other obligations and use this time to catch up on the tasks that matter most.
  • Catch up on:

12. Develop Systems That Work: Work smarter not harder!

  • Feedback
    -Create a document with the most common errors and your responses.
    -Copy and paste as appropriate.
  •  CBAs
    -Create a document with various sets of questions/discussion points.
    -Don’t reinvent the wheel during each call.

13. Avoid Procrastination

  • Procrastination is a coping mechanism.
  • We avoid emotionally unpleasant tasks and instead do something that provides a temporary mood boost.
  • Procrastination causes a vicious cycle of shame and guilt, leading to further procrastination.
  • Peter Gollwitzer and his colleagues recommend implementation intentions which take the form of "If, then." They have found that pre-commitments through implementation intentions can keep you focused.
    -"If the phone rings, then I’m not going to answer it during x time."
    -"If my nearby cube mates are socializing, then I’m not going to participate during x time." (Credit: Why Your Brain Loves Procrastination)

14. If You Struggle, Track Your Time

  • It would be very telling if you tracked your time for one week and then shared that data with your supervisor. Perhaps there are too many mandatory tasks unrelated to student success that are eating up your valuable time. It is definitely something to consider trying.
  • Try the sites Toggl or Yast.
  • Or create a form like this:

15. Use Your Calendar

  • Rather than outlining your daily to-dos on a list, schedule them as meetings on your calendar, leaving enough time for each.
  • Schedule follow-up reminders:
    -Follow up on a DCBA
    -Evaluate how an intervention is working
    (Either schedule individual follow-ups or schedule a block of time for follow-ups and simply edit the appointment with the student names.)

Check out Andrea Azzalina's calendar:


CCA Teachers: Please contact me for the recording!

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Wishing you a year of productivity!


Ashly LocklinComment