I remember googling productivity tips countless times in high school, mainly as a request by my teachers. Every article I read through gave me the same few tips. Unfortunately, none of it helped.
I accepted the fact that I was not a productive person.
Deadlines became motivators. I would leave major assignments to the last minute, and always find a way to get it done. It may not have been my best work, but it was done. And that was good enough for me.
Unfortunately, these habits stayed with me as I pursued my education degree. But I made it work. I was hired as a teacher pulling overnighters to finish essays and unit plans. In fact, I put together my educational portfolio the night before my interview.
In the summer leading up to my first day of teaching, I promised myself I would not let these habits into my new career. However, that wasn’t the case.
I batch-marked assignments weeks after they were due, delayed contacting parents when there were reasons to contact them, and entered report card comments the day before they were due.
Basically, nothing had changed.
I knew this approach would eventually burn me out, and a change was necessary. So what did I do?
It was no surprise that the content was basically the same.
I knew that combing through Google searches were not going to get me the results I needed.
I ended up doing what I push my students to do daily. Be creative, take risks, and experiment!
If you’re reading this, you are probably in the same position I was in. And you most likely stumbled upon this post using the same approach I did. However, I hope that what I found worked for me can fit into your lifestyle.
Remember, being busy is a choice. Being productive is a goal.
Here are my top 3 productivity tips for teachers and students!
Productivity Tip #1: The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique became a game-changer for me.
I recognized that I constantly did things in batches. Marking, report cards, and planning were done in longer grind sessions instead of spacing them out over time. The Pomodoro technique simply took what I already did, but allows me to ultra-focus my time on what is important that day.
Here is how I go about doing it:
- At the start of the week, I identify the tasks I need to complete that week.
- Every evening, I write down the 3-5 tasks I want to tackle the next day in priority, and how many pomodoros I think will be needed to complete it. I stick to my priority list and focus on each task in 25-minute bursts.
- After 25 minutes of work, I give myself a short 5-minute break.
- Once each task is complete, I identify exactly how many 25-minute Pomodoros were needed to reflect on my levels of productivity.
- At the end of the week, I reflect on my productivity and move onto the next week’s tasks.
Since implementing this into my life, I have seen my productivity levels increase drastically. I no longer waste time on my phone, email, or on the web. Trying to get tasks done in less time than I predict will challenge me to stay focused on the task at hand, and to get the tasks I identified the night before completed.
In fact, it has allowed me to stay on top of marking, report cards, contact with parents, and exercise with time remaining to create and maintain a blog.
My Recommended Pomodoro Technique Resource
Using the Pomodoro technique can be done on your own. However, I have found it easier to hold myself accountable with a planner.
The Productivity Planner by Intelligent Change has been one of my best purchases. It allows me to accomplish everything mentioned above and motivates me to continue using it. I have recommended this as one of my best productivity tips to other teachers and students, and I challenge you to try it if productivity is one of your downfalls.
Introducing the Pomodoro Technique in the Classroom
I challenge my students to try to use the Pomodoro technique when working on tasks in the classroom.
I know focus is a challenge for many students. However, this technique has proven to be an effective tool with productivity and quality of work.
When students have time to work on tasks, split the class up into 30-minute blocks if time allows. I get students to put all of their focus on their work for a 25-minute block, then give them 5 minutes where they can have complete freedom. Many students use that 5-minute block to catch up on their Snapchat streaks, use the bathroom, get water or food, or just decompress with their classmates.
Once the 5 minutes are up, students get back on task for the next 25-minute block.
If you do not have the time to use the 25/5 recommendations of the Pomodoro technique, you can alter them to what works for you. I have seen teachers do a 10/2 split that works effectively with early-to-middle years.
Productivity Tip #2: Greyscale Mode
Cell phones will always be a controversial topic in education. In my school, we have some teachers confiscate them at the start of class, while others embrace them as tools to complete assignments and do research.
Some places, such as the province of Ontario, outright ban them from the classroom.
Cell phones can be a major distraction, and I understand the reasoning behind banning them. In fact, I did a small study with a Grade 10 class regarding social media notifications.
Using a cell phone as a time-waster has always been a problem for me. Mobile games, social media, or news sites allow me to waste time but still feel like I am accomplishing something.
I knew I needed to make a change, but I also can’t turn my phone off all the time.
Turning my phone to greyscale made it so visually unappealing that I no longer wanted to use it as a distraction.
This simple change, which can be done in the Accessibility section of your settings, has increased productivity in me and my students drastically. We no longer want to use the phone as a distraction tool since it is hard to look at, but it is still there in case an emergency text or call comes through.
Don’t believe me? Try playing a game in greyscale mode. It will be frustrating.
(shortcut tip: set it to turn to greyscale mode by clicking your home button three times)
Productivity Tip #3: Build Your Professional Learning Network Outside of Your School
Communicating with other teachers or students within your school is easy. They are people you know, are familiar with, and you trust. These same people can be knowledgable in the areas you need help with.
But why should you limit yourself to that inner circle?
I was a victim of this mindset. Regardless of the issue, I would immediately go to someone within my building I thought would know an answer. Or at the very least could find someone if they did not.
One thing you’ll find out if you haven’t already is that people are genuinely willing to give you the content you seek out. It is just a matter of stepping out of your comfort zone.
No matter the industry, there is a community available to you somewhere on the internet. And they may be in places you’ve never thought to look.
Currently, my two favourite resources for anything education-related are:
1. The Business Educators Facebook Group
I lost interest in Facebook. It became a constant stream of memes, pet photos, and complaining. My problem was I was no longer using it correctly.
Although the type of content I typically consume shifted to other platforms, the professional learning network specific to me was still there. A quick Facebook group search lead me to a group specifically built for business education.
The best part? This group has just under 4,400 members.
My school? There are two of us.
I have been able to gain a lot of insight and tools from a group of people on the social media platform I saw as a dying place. And I am willing to bet that regardless of your specialty, you will find one too.
2. Twitter Hashtag Searches
Twitter chats are still thriving. They may not be as popular or trendy anymore, but they still contain valuable content.
After a few quick searches, I have been able to engage and share with a plethora of other teachers. This has given me ideas I try out regularly in the classroom. Twitter also allows me to share the positives and negatives of my lesson to see how others will approach those situations.
Much like Facebook, Twitter has a thriving educator community that engages in various subject-area discussions. A quick google search can pop up the various specialty Twitter chats that go on.
Twitter has also let me begin building my personal brand alongside this blog. Having a tool to not only share my content but to also engage in meaningful conversation around it has built many more relationships than I could have ever imagined!
Why Do These Affect Productivity?
It is easy to think that social media is counterproductive. We are looking at increasing the quality of work we do, not waste it.
In theory, that is true. However, by “wasting time” properly on these platforms, the productivity that follows will be sky-high.
Once you have come up with a list of ideas to try out, the following time will be for making those ideas a reality. Additionally, your motivation to try out those ideas will carry you through the times where you would default back to your most popular time-wasters.
What About Students?
By using social media in a specific way, students can benefit from these platforms too!
Searches can help students find information to assist them with assessment pieces. They can also allow students to engage in conversation with individuals who specialize in a specific subject matter.
Quoting someone for a research paper is good. Interviewing that same person is even better.
Students can use social media to take their learning to a whole new level, but it takes self-discipline. If students can harness that, the learning possibilities are endless.
And much like myself, students can start to develop their own personal brands to become known experts in their passions. And who knows. Maybe someone will be asking them for an interview down the road.
Productivity tips are simply just tips. It is easy to Google search how to be productive. That may be how you stumbled on this article.
The reason these exist on the internet is that they work for somebody. Through trial and error, and a whole lot of self-discipline, you can find the ones that work for you as well.
These three productivity tips have worked well for both myself and my students. It does take time to master their practice. But I assure you, if they can work in my classroom, they can work in yours!
I would love for you to leave a comment below listing some of your favourite productivity tips, or how the above ones work in your classroom!
Thanks for reading!