May 9, 2020
Episode 91 of The Teaching Space Podcast explains my number one productivity tip for teachers and trainers.
Let’s talk about the biggest challenge facing teachers today - too much to do and not enough time. There is so much information in a teacher’s head at any one time, it is amazing anything gets done. I wish this wasn’t the case, but I strongly believe it is. It is one of the reasons I started this podcast. While I wish I could go to the root of the problem and fix it (that’s a topic for another podcast) what I would like to do in this episode is share just one tip to help you keep on top of that enormous workload. And it is a good tip, I promise. Perhaps, I will throw in some bonus resources too if we have time… let’s see!
While this will not solve all of your problems, it is, I believe, the starting point for being a productive teacher. Full disclosure, it is not entirely my idea. I stole it from David Allen, creator of the Getting Things Done productivity method (definitely worth a read, by the way!)
A typical teacher has information coming at them from all directions - let’s call it input. For example, emails, text messages, meetings and phone calls with line managers, students, parents, colleagues… They’re likely asking for something or sharing information, or giving instructions. This doesn’t even take into account input from your personal life, but there will be plenty of that. Even seemingly ‘fun’ things like reading books or articles or social media; it’s all input. There are also ideas floating around your head, questions you need to ask, tasks you need to complete, appointments you need to attend. It’s no wonder we feel overwhelmed at times.
The problem with all of this input is that it tends to end up in different places. From sticky notes to paper lists, to digital lists, to the back of your hand… it’s everywhere. Spreading things in this way means that invariably something gets missed or lost.
My top productivity tip is to have one trusted place to capture everything. Think of it as a bucket. Get everything out of your head and into one bucket, then life will be easier. Things don’t live in the bucket, they get filtered into their rightful home. But they all start in the bucket.
Your bucket might be a small notepad that lives in your pocket (it needs to be with you or close by at all times). For many of us, our bucket is our phone. The problem with phones, however, is that they have lots of apps. Which app is your bucket? Is it a notes app or an audio app? What suits your needs best?
For me, it’s a simple app called Drafts. It is one of the few apps on my phone that does not sit in a folder, so it is easy to access. It’s a text app with a difference - every time you open the app a new document or note is created and saved automatically. You do not have to think about where to save the note and what to call it. I put random ideas in here, quotes, thoughts, questions, to-do items … anything that needs a temporary home before I put it in its real bucket. The only thing I do not do this with is appointments - they have their own, easily accessible bucket: my Google Calendar. That’s because if I am booking an appointment I will need to check my availability and the only way I can do that is by looking at my calendar.
Drafts gets cleared at the end of each day all being well. To-do items go to my task manager in TickTick and other items get filed in the same way. For example, if I have had a podcast idea, that topic gets moved into my podcast planning board in Notion.
The idea of your initial trusted bucket is that you don’t have to spend time deciding where to ‘file’ information. For example, to add a to-do item to my task manager I have to consider which category it belongs to (e.g. personal, work, podcast) and then assign a due date. If it goes in my trusted bucket first, I can deal with these details when I can allocate time to them (for example as part of my end of day routine). Things do not get missed.
What do you think? Do you need a bucket?
And that’s it. If you have any questions about this episode or comments you’d like to share please join The Teaching Space Community: community.theteachingspace.com.
The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.
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Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.