Teachers talk a lot to kids about time management (we are really just telling kids to stop wasting their time). Adults seek to improve their time management skills (whatever that is supposed to mean) as a “productivity hack.” As if being better at Google Calendar was the secret to getting more done.
You don’t need a productivity hack. You don’t need to manage your time. You need to manage your energy.
Energy management is more important, more powerful, and more effective than time management.
When I have a lot of work to do, and I am tired, I do not chug another coffee, turn up the music, and grudgingly slog through it.
Instead, I take a nap.
I am not wasting my time. I am recovering my energy.
Here’s a little secret about getting things done, a “productivity hack”: even if you have a lot of work, it kind of doesn’t matter how much time you have to get it done. It is true that you need time to let creative ideas marinate and connect inside your head. It is true that you can only type so many words per minute. But it is also true that work expands to fill the time allotted, and even if you reduce the amount of time you have to complete a task, you will probably still be able to finish it.
You will make it happen. Working against an urgent deadline is often necessary to get you moving. Think about your students and when they get their work done. You know what the most productive time of the week is? Sunday night between 11:00 PM and 1:00 AM. You gave them a week to work in class, and they mostly used it to chat in Gmail and look at cat memes. But the deadline motivates them and gets their brains clicking when they should be sleeping. Think how much better they would be if they knew how to actually manage their energy.
And if you manage your energy and take a nap when you are freaking tired, you are going to recharge enough to be creative and to work quickly.
Working slowly and uncreatively gets less done in more time. It’s unpleasant. It feels like the right thing to do because you are grinding through. You are proving to yourself and the universe that you are dedicated. It feeds your inner martyr.
Teaching does not need more martyrs.
Teaching needs dedicated adults who know how to step off the gas when it’s time to. You need to leave enough in the tank to come back again the next day and be fully present for your students. This is no abdication of your duty, or tacit permission to produce lower quality work. It is about harnessing your mental power to effectively apply it in service of your students while still taking care of your personal needs so you can live to teach another day. You need to get your work done fast enough to have a life outside of teaching, because teaching is awesome but it is not the universe.
Your new to do list:
- Take a nap.
- Shorten the amount of time you thought you would need to complete a project and work against that earlier deadline. You will still finish the project.