10 Ways To Be More Productive As a Teacher
You can get more work done in less time if you apply these productivity tips.
Have you felt what’s it like to be in a rut where you’ve felt busy but not productive; tired and underachieving?
Many teachers have.
So this post will explore multiple ways to improve how you work so that you can come out feeling on track and on purpose (and have the results to show for it).
Before we jump into 10 tips for improving your productivity as a teacher, let’s get clear on what we mean by “productivity”.
One way to define productivity is to look at how we measure it.
How productivity can be measured
In our research for this post we came upon one definition that provides a modern understanding of productivity:
To most modern audiences, “productivity” means “the rate at which products are created or important work is completed”
The critical phrase here is “important work”.
Which leads us to…
Productive vs Busy
It’s easy to get caught up on doing things that make us feel busy, but aren’t actually moving us any closer to reaching our major goals.
A common scenario with teachers who become entrepreneurs is wasting a lot of time and energy trying to get a logo or website looking pretty, but not investing any time in doing the work that will actually result in making money i.e. having conversations with potential buyers.
Here’s a quick video that explains the difference between busy and productive:
Ready to get productive instead of just being busy? We bet you are!
How productivity is improved
There are several factors that can lead to improved productivity:
Environment – where you work
Mindset – what you believe in relation to how you approach your work
Access to tools
Taking the above factors into account, we’re going to look at 10 different and complementary ways you can boost your productivity as a teacher without feeling like you’re heading for a burnout.
1. Develop a Growth Mindset
The Growth Mindset is probably the hottest topic in the learning anld educational field today.
In a nutshell, a growth mindset person describes anyone who believes their results and talents can be developed through hard work, discipline, asking for help from others, and so on. The key to a growth mindset is a positive approach to experimentation and flexibility in thinking.
A fixed mindset person is someone who believes that talents are something you’re born with and unable to improve upon. They can often get stuck because they are not open to new ideas or feedback.
Those who have a growth mindset tend to do better overall than a fixed mindset person.
As much as we’re extremely excited for how this principle can positively affect our students, how much do we apply these growth mindset theories to our own skills and work ethic?
You’d be surprised at how much your own productivity can be boosted by taking a more assertive role in preparing your own schedule and projects. Approach it from the perspective of a growth mindset.
In a fixed mindset, there’s the victim mentality of “Things can’t change” or “I’m too busy to be more productivity!” But, a growth mindset asserts its priorities and what it’s willing to do to accomplish goals.
While this may not be the most tangible productivity hack, this slight shift in mindset will help set the tone for the effectiveness of the rest of our list.
Decide right now: which mindset will you have moving forward – a fixed one, or a growth one?
2. Get to and Leave School Early
This principle has more to do with preparation than time management — but you will better manage your time if you feel and are better prepared to seize the day.
Giving yourself that time to be in teaching mode before the actual rush of students will set an intention and you’ll be better prepared to field obstacles and new challenges throughout the day.
That assertive growth mindset will also allow you to better judge which challenges are worth delving into or where you’d like to get help.
Leaving early may also seem counterintuitive to being “productive” but staying in class late is a recipe for an early burnout—that’s definitely not healthy, let alone productive.
Leaving early actually helps you to better prioritize your time. And, if you know you have an allotted time to get school work done before you have to leave for the day, you’ll get it done before the end of the day more often than not.
Think of Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Basically, if you give yourself all evening to grade those papers, you’ll inevitably take all evening. But, if you only have an hour and a half, you’ll take that hour and a half—or closer to it than if you were to give yourself more time.
Related: 8 Simple Productivity Hacks for Ambitious Teacherpreneurs
3. Work at Home (but not all the time)
“Don’t bring work home!”
This is a common belief for many teachers, and we get it – once you’ve spent a whole day in the classroom the last thing you’d want to do is bring more work home, right?
So here’s the interesting thing…
A recent Stanford study actually revealed that working from home some days, and going into the office other days, increases overall productivity.
According to the findings, there are tremendous benefits to employers too for allowing their staff to work from home.
Of course if your job requires you to be in the classroom full-time then this will prove challenging.
Perhaps you can suggest working out of the nearest cafe, coworking space or library instead of the usual staff room? Get creative!
4. Say bye to perfectionism, and hello to optimalism
Getting things done more often than not is much more productive than making things perfect. You’ll likely never feel like a project or a piece of work is exactly and completely to your liking.
Working until something is completely perfect is a formula for a ton of unfinished work or a very dissatisfied self, neither of which will develop a productive work ethic.
Decide, prior to starting a project, what standard of quality you’re willing to accept and what simply is not necessary to the success of the project.
It’s time to embrace optimalism. Watch this video to learn the difference:
In order to embrace optimalism, we suggest you apply Pareto’s principle (aka. the “80/20” rule) to your work.
Don’t invest time and effort into aspects of your work that is simply not going to provide any added or relevant value down the line.
Follow these 3 steps to work out what you can delegate so that you can focus on the important tasks.
5. Get A Healthy Balance of Stress and Rest
In studying some of the world’s top performers, Stulberg and Magness found that those who performed at peaked levels over long periods of time were people that had a healthy balance of stress and rest.
This is harping back to tip #2 of valuing your time—your time for rest is also very valuable.
Stulberg and Magness also discovered that in resting, you come back to your work more focused and more skilled than the last time you were hacking away at it.
This is because at rest your brain has taken the time to digest and process the new skills learned and practiced.
Rest is just as important as healthy stress—you need a good balance of both.
Try working in bursts and designate which periods in your week or even your day are the periods where you get your best work done.
6. Eat, Sleep, and Workout
To piggyback on our last tip, your health is crucial to your productivity. Someone who feels energized and clear-headed is definitely more likely to perform at a more focused level than someone who is groggy, bloated, and caffeine-dependent.
If you’re a teacher and/or parent, then you’re probably scoffing at the idea of getting a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep—when was the last time that happened???
Granted, for many that may not be possible but what you can work toward is at least going to bed and waking up at the exact same time every night, all week. Yes, weekends included!
When you try to “catch-up” on your lost hours of sleep over the weekend, your body has lost its rhythm and has to once again re-adjust to your weekday schedule come Monday. By the time it gets used to your weekday routine on Thursday, you’ll botch your efforts by next weekend—and, your body then has to start all over. This is actually quite exhausting for your body.
Contrary to what many people assume, a recent study revealed that you don’t need 8 hours of sleep to perform optimally. Refer to How Much Sleep Do We Really Need to Work Productively? to find out more.
(image source: Buffer)
It’s also recommended that you take short naps (around 20 mins) throughout the day, as it can restore alertness and can help you feel less tired. Check out this video for more on the benefit of napping.
Find a routine for your sleep while cutting out as much processed foods as you can and watch your energy levels sore in the next couple of weeks. Add some movement in there with a gym session or a brisk walk every morning, and those endorphins are sure to get you excited and more optimistic.
What better way to support that Growth Mindset of yours, right?
7. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
This one is very simple—there’s no need to try and reinvent the wheel.
There’s so much great content and activities for every subject, and at every level, on Pinterest for your teaching agenda.
Spend a bit of time there or on any other relevant teaching platforms, like Teachers Pay Teachers, and plan out a teaching plan that’ll work for you and your students.
That being said, don’t feel stifled in terms of sticking to the plan.
While you shouldn’t spend too much time trying to create new content and materials, you should also feel free to build upon what you’ve found—this is where creative innovation can happen without all of the extra time spent trying to create something new.
In summary, leverage your time better by building upon what others have already created.
8. Remember the Milk App
(image source: Remember the Milk)
Remember the Milk is a great productivity app for busy people. All of the to-dos you have to remember can be quickly jotted down onto the app. You’ll get notifications based on time, priority, urgency, etc., reminding you of the tasks you must complete.
You can classify your tasks any way you want—by now, if you’ve applied any of our above productivity tips, you probably have a better sense of what your priorities are, how effective your work ethic is throughout the day, etc.
This app can be the complement to your growth mindset and new work ethic. Use this app to help plan out your day and/or week—after everything is put into the app, you just have to take action on the various tasks and projects and errands that pop up.
This will help you avoid worrying about what you’re not doing or feel you’re supposed to be doing. You’ll know that what’s popped up is the most important thing you should be focusing on right now.
9. Use Google cloud collaboration tools
Google Drive makes it easy for you to share your work at varying levels. People can have access to view, suggest, or fully edit your work. This is a great platform for teamwork.
Having a Google account means you can also use Google Calendar. You can have your entire schedule set up on Google Calendar with designated schedules available to assigned parties.
With the entire Google platform, you’ll be able to easily ask for help and designate work—which leads us seamlessly into our next and final tip.
Best of all, Google gives you 15 GB of space in Google Drive for free!
10. Ask for Help!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to help you—but they’re not going to realize you need it until you ask.
Whether you start your own community or join a mastermind group, you can take advantage of that growth mindset by getting into the habit of asking for feedback on your projects.
You can also partner with others to co-create something great that’s simply not possibly when flying solo.
The ideas and innovations you’ll create together with other people will be way more than if you were to all work individually.
Nothing can stifle productivity like being overwhelmed and feeling alone. Having a team and/or a an accountability group will help support your creative and innovative bent. There’s no price tag that you can put on having a team of people that support you, and that you can support, in order to grow together.