Every couple of episodes on this season on the Truth for Teachers podcast, I’m going to be featuring coaching calls. I’m answering teachers’ specific questions about productivity, balance, and managing it all. Think of it as instructional coaching and life coaching rolled into one–and you get to listen in!

The teachers you’ll hear me talk with have completed their year in the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club and are now enrolled in the graduate program. This means they already have lots of insight as to how to be intentional about their time and their teaching, and are ready to take streamlining to the next level.

In this episode, I’m talking with Kendall, a grade 4 teacher in Alberta, Canada. Kendall has made a tremendous amount of changes to her workflow and is doing really well with time management overall, but there are a few areas where she’s having trouble sticking to her habits and best practices.

4 ways time management habits get derailed (and how to get back on track)

Click the player above to listen to our conversation.

A summary of Kendall’s questions and my responses are below.

1. I’ve set up a good organizational system for papers, but how do I maintain the use of it rather than letting my inbox continue to fill up with piles of paper?

  • Empty your inbox daily — or at the very least, every other day. Make this a habit!
  • Deal with each item right away: copy information (dates, times, meetings, etc.) from papers to your lesson plan or calendar, then get rid of the papers.
  • Designate separate holding places for other papers that are being collected and need to be kept and accessed frequently, such as permission slips.

2. How do I not get stuck searching for resources? Even when I set time limits, I find that I’m not happy with what I found and keep looking. What do you do when you haven’t found what you need, but your time is up?

  • The ideal lesson is something that only you know exists. If you have something else that is meaningful or engaging, go with that. Relax your standards to a level where no one else will notice but you.
  • When you’ve got about 5 minutes left in your search, use that time to make a decision. Pick something that will work, and end your search.
  • Don’t try to make something perfect before you use it with your kids. You’re not going to know exactly what they need until you start teaching it. Practice improvising on the spot in response to what students need, rather than trying to plan and prepare for everything.  Often the best lesson ideas come in the middle of teaching — sometimes they even come from your students.

3. I love the idea of planning more than one week at a time, but I find it overwhelming. I typically plan for the following week on Friday or Sunday. I want to plan more than one week out, but I feel like I forget what I had planned, or things change so much due to the students pacing, interruptions, changes to the schedule, etc. How do I effectively plan in advance?

  • Planning in advance means knowing what topics or skills you’re covering each day. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have every minute already mapped out.
  • Know the general plan of what you’re going to do (what standard, with what activity, and what assessment). You can see where you need to get your students and then work backwards. So just have a rough outline.
  • Always try to build in some buffer time. Plan for interruptions by leaving room in your schedule for them. Instead of planning to have students review 10 problems, plan to review 5, and then if you have extra time, you can do more.

4. Some days I feel exhausted at the end of teaching, but I feel like I need to push through to try to get some work done. Clearly, I’m not very effective in using this time but I have trouble letting myself go home earlier than usual. How can I help myself recognize those unproductive days, where it’s not a matter of being “lazy,” but being just plain tired?

  • First off, if this is regularly a problem for you, try creating a different schedule for yourself. Is changing up your schedule possible so that you DON’T have to work on really intense tasks right after school?
  • The other thing here is knowing when to force yourself to be self-disciplined and when to cut yourself some slack. Sometimes just completely shutting off work and not thinking about it at all for the rest of the evening and night will give you more focus and concentration the next day. That’s especially true when you do something completely different to give yourself a true mental break.
  • So, do give yourself breaks like that when you know it’s pointless to push through, and the more you batch your work and get ahead, the more freedom you’ll have to do this. You can’t wait another day when you need to work on tomorrow’s tasks. But if you’re a couple days ahead, you have some flexibility.
  • Take a break and then the next day, really set yourself up for success. Be well rested, eat something healthy, know what drains your mental and emotional and spiritual energy, and avoid those things that day so you can be at your peak performance and be productive.

Click the player above to listen to the complete coaching call,

or download it and listen on the go.

This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers. A podcast is like a free talk radio show you can listen to online, or download and take with you wherever you go. I release a new 15-20 minute episode each Sunday and feature it here on the blog to help you get energized and motivated for the week ahead.

This episode is sponsored by TheTeacherToolkit.com, a free website with over 60 teaching tools designed to help make your instruction engaging and meaningful. For each strategy, you’ll find step-by-step instructions, editable templates, and even video footage from real classrooms to show you the strategy in action. To check out these free tools and the growing collection of affordable online courses, visit TheTeacherToolkit.com.

Truth for Teachers podcast: a weekly 10 minute talk radio show you can download and take with you wherever you go! A new episode is released each Sunday to get you energized and motivated for the week ahead.

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