Do you have sticky notes covering your computer screen or all around your desk? Maybe you have a long to-do list that feels overwhelming and you aren't sure where to even begin. I've been there, and the feeling of being pulled in multiple directions while never seeming to get ahead can lead to burnout quickly. I'm glad you're reading, because this teacher productivity hack is a game-changer.
The Urgent Importance Quadrant
As teachers, we quickly find out that the work is never done. There will always be something to grade, something to plan, and something to organize. Most of the time we have so many things on our plate, that we end up focusing on the tasks and responsibilities that either aren't of the highest importance or don't make the biggest impact. By using the Urgent Importance Quadrant, you will quickly be able to see where to spend your time. This quadrant breaks tasks up into four categories: important, urgent, not important, and can be delegated. Let's look at each quadrant.
There are tasks that are part of our job description that we must do. This likely includes lesson planning, entering grades, parent communication, and fulfilling our building responsibilities like bus duty or attending staff meetings. These are tasks that are important. If you aren't sure if it's an important task, ask yourself if it is something that makes a big impact. Important tasks move the needle.
This category is made up of things that come up unexpectedly. This could include a parent complaint that needs to be addressed, an emergency or crisis, or even a personal matter that we need to attend to immediately. It can be helpful to make space in your day for addressing urgent tasks.
These are things that we may do as teachers, but they don't necessarily make a big impact. This could include things like changing the border on your bulletin board, spending more than 10 minutes creating cute and fun welcome slides, or updating the font on a resource. If you aren't sure if it's an important task, ask yourself, will this matter in 5 minutes? 5 days? or 5 weeks?
Can Be Delegated
Sometimes it can be hard to let go of tasks. We know our class best so it may feel as though handing off the task to someone else may lead to it not being completed as well. But here's the thing, we can't go through teaching alone. We all need to lean on others. Some examples of things to delegate include running copies, pencil sharpening, organizing or light cleaning, or handing back papers. You can even have your students do some record-keeping. You don't have to grade everything, and there can be great power in giving students an opportunity to track their own progress. As well, early finishers can help you with small tasks in your classroom. If you are lucky to have a volunteer to help with copies, just write a note with how you would like the copies to be made and organized. Again, you can ask yourself, if you hand this task off, will it really matter in 5 minutes, 5 days, or 5 weeks?
One More Thing
If you are already feeling overwhelmed, drop whatever is on your list that is not absolutely necessary. Sometimes we see a fun idea on Pinterest, TickTok, or Instagram that we want to try, but it involves a lot of extra planning. Drop it. Not every lesson has to be full of extra to be effective. Also, don't reinvent the wheel when a quality resource, lesson plan, or activity has been shared by a colleague or made available online in places like TPT. You are no less of a teacher for choosing to use pre-made lesson plans, because no one can go through teaching alone.
Looking for more? You might like this blog post.