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This month, we are diving back into the archives looking at episodes from March of the season one. So this was last year 2021, taking the most popular episodes from our mini planning series and revisiting them because this is relevant information for any year. Any year of your practice, even if you want to relisten, this is content that folks have said : They have actually gone through my course on this several times and found extreme value in looking at it at different parts throughout the pandemic, different year to year, just having a different planning process, teaching different things, we're just needing a refresher on what that content reminded them to do. So I hope you enjoy from the archives, our planning series. This is gonna be five episodes in March. It includes how do you spend your time, all of the tips on planning, the beliefs that get in the way, advancing wellness and efficient effective lesson planning. Be sure to listen to them all.
Or if you're just using a refresher, listen to the ones that you think a refresher would be incredibly valuable for you and inspiring for you to paint that picture of what it looks like to take less work home, be more efficient, effective and really your best teacher or educator or leader self
in this episode of the Time for Teachership podcast, I'm going to be talking to you about our planning series. This is going to be part two of the planning series, part one you listened to perhaps last week. If you didn't, you can go ahead and listen to that. It was all about how do you spend your time and I talked about my 50 40 10 approach to planning and how that saved me hundreds of hours per year as a teacher. Today I want to share with you all of the various tips that I've been collecting over the years and refining as I read and learn more and do this work on a day to day basis.
Hi, I'm Lindsay Lyons and I love helping school communities envision bold possibilities,.
take brave action to make those dreams a reality and sustain an inclusive, anti-racist culture where all students thrive. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach, educational consultant and leadership scholar. If you are a leader in the education world, whether you're a principal, superintendent, instructional coach or a classroom teacher excited about school wide change like I was, you are a leader. And if you enjoy nerding out about the latest educational books and podcasts, if you're committed to a lifelong journey of learning and growth and being the best version of yourself, you're going to love the Time for Teachership podcast. Let's dive in
I want to share kind of a bunch of tips around getting started with the behavior change and I also want to share in the same episode, my day to day work scheduling tips, so how to actually schedule out your day and your work. So let's get started. Behavior change. I have learned that while one step moving towards action is really great and many folks will say that one step is really all you need to get going,
I recommend starting with three steps. The difference here between one step and three next steps is really that momentum and so I can energetically dive into a new goal on day one, but after day one it's a lot easier to fizzle out. So I can get really excited about a new exercise school, I'm going to go ahead and exercise today. if I don't keep that pattern up in the next few days, it really fizzles out and becomes just this thing that I did on this one day. If we can commit to three stops, one after the other, we build up that momentum, we start to make real progress towards our goal. We start to believe that this is who we are in the world, we are a person who was running every morning or we are a person who does whatever it was that you decided to do and that momentum is going to be critical for working towards real change. So start with three steps, not just one. There are some more tips I have around. This idea of starting with three steps and building up that momentum beyond just "take three steps" and these are going to make it really actionable and ensure that we're going to do that follow through.
So the first piece is to set a deadline. I have found one week to be a really helpful timeframe here for me to complete three steps. That way, if I do go running tomorrow morning, but I forget or I have an injury or something comes up the next morning, I still have some leeway to be able to accomplish those three steps in one week, which is a short enough period of time to feel like, "yes, I'm making rapid momentum." and a long enough period of time to really provide that flexibility to work around the busyness of life and work and all the things that come up.
So I'm less likely to forget and build that momentum quickly. I'm building my confidence. I'm also building in flexibility into the system. I think this is one of the things that I'm learning as I grow and evolve is that rigidity with which I used to set all of my goals and led to a lot of goal accomplishment doesn't really let me live into kind of my values and the way that I would like and to show up in a place that is a flexible and relaxed and adaptive as opposed to really rigid and stressed.
And so I think that combination of flexibility and rigorous goal setting and those three steps after you set the goal really critical to have that balance
Whatever you choose as your deadline, maybe one week is not for you, just make sure that it is soon enough that you won't fall into the trap of, "oh, I'll do it tomorrow," or "I'll do it next week." You can definitely latch onto the momentum of the, I can't remember what it's called in the research, but this new start philosophy, right? So sometimes we do this on a yearly basis. In new year's, we have these new year's resolutions, we say, "okay, well starting on this fresh slate, this new year, I'm going to start." This is also doable in each month, each week. So okay, "Monday I'm going to start Monday. It's a fresh new week. I'm going to become this person that I want to be then." Or each day, right? It's a fresh day. I just woke up, I got a restful night's sleep. Here we go. This is who I'm going to be today and the next day and the next day. So latch onto that fresh start. That's what it's called : Fresh start effect. Latch onto that fresh start effect wherever you can and just make sure that again, you're not falling into that trap of putting it off tomorrow.
Pick a date, started three actions in one week.
The other piece to make sure that we're really gaining traction here is to make the actions doable. So the first few steps should be actions that take about 2-5 minutes. So for example, my current desired habit is to practice Duolingo every day. I really want to become fluent in Spanish. I'm gonna start with Spanish and hope to get to multiple languages over time. But I want to practice at least every week night. So that's another piece to flexibility. I want to make sure that I'm practicing every weeknight, so five days a week, I get that practice in and I can complete a lesson in a manageable amount of time and just maybe two minutes, five minutes, right? And still continue my daily streak. Build that momentum in a way that doesn't take up hours of my life. And I can certainly, and have certainly practiced for 30, 40 minutes, If I'm really on a roll, that's great, that's exciting. But I don't want to hold myself to that standard because then it feels really unmanageable and that's where we kind of lead ourselves into inaction because it just feels so big and so lofty. So make it doable, always feel free to go beyond that, but just make it doable to start
Writing out your plan is also really big.
So one of the things that I used to do in trying to make my plans manageable and build momentum is to write down two big things every day that I wanted to accomplish in that day, and I would really focus my time and energy on completing those tasks. I still definitely do that. But the practice and the question that I'm asking that underlies that practice has shifted a bit. So now it feels a bit more powerful to me to tie in each of those goals to a larger goal or vision for myself. If I'm working on a larger project, I might frame each day's task as which life changing project am I working towards today or which vision or goal am I working towards today? And what's the biggest thing that's going to really move the needle on that goal? That's going to fill my day with a lot more purpose than check the box, list of tasks. Even if it is only two tasks, that idea of connecting to purpose and larger vision is going to be really helpful in making sure that we really see those things as priorities and when it comes down to it, and we're at the end of the day and we have an hour left in our work day because we want to set clear parameters around our time,
so we're not working 80 hour work weeks, right? Like many of us do in education. We want to make sure that our purpose and our why and our driver are concrete vision that we have for ourselves in our lives is going to be the motivator to get that done
Relatedly, I think the final tip in this section here is to connect those steps to your identity. James Clear, who writes about habits, talks about linking our habits to our identities as a way to ensure that we follow through on our goals. And so he talks about for him, conducting a yearly integrity report, which really involves him asking, "what are the core values that drive my life and my work?" "How am I living and working with integrity right now and how can I set a higher standard in the future?" And so what he says about this work is that it helps him quote, "revisit my desired identity and consider how my habits are helping me become the type of person I wish to be.
We're more likely to continuously take action toward a goal if we see the work in each of the steps in that work as really critical to living out our desired identity and being our best self. Just to recap. When we're thinking about getting started with behavior change, we're building that momentum towards this big transformational chef. We want to start with three steps, not just one. We want to set a deadline for achieving those first three steps likely within a week. That flexibility is there, but also we have a time so it's time bound. We won't forget about it. We won't put it off till next week or next year. We want to make the actions doable 2-5 minutes per action. Of course we can go beyond that, but we want to write, limit that scope to make it feel doable. Write out the plan. I would even suggest and this is something I'll talk about later in the planning series, putting it on the calendar right? Write out your plan. What are you going to do today to live into that plan to live into that goal? Make it a priority. And finally connect these steps to your identity.
Make sure you have that deeper "why", that vision for your life and who you want to be in the world, and have that connect to your day to day actions. That will make it more likely you're going to go ahead and follow through.
Now, let's talk a little bit about day to day work life and scheduling tips. So how do we effectively schedule our day to day work lives? In the education world, this may not make a ton of sense in terms of where your classes scheduled, although I will say as a person who's scheduled classes for our school, I think it is important to give flexibility and teacher choice wherever possible in terms of creating, you know, your class schedule for the year. However, I recognize that sometimes, you know, you can't change when you're teaching a class, but you can have control over your planning time to an extent and what you do independently outside of teaching in front of students. And for leaders and other folks in the education space who are not always in front of classrooms, that planning space, that day to day, not being in front of students, opens up a lot of possibilities as well for how you schedule your time.
So, here's the first tip that I would suggest. Set boundaries. Whether we are working from home, working in school, working in hybrid settings, wherever we are in this moment, we are likely working more than 40 hours a week. We are likely working many more hours than we are officially working on paper. And for me, I used to work long days during the week and then double digit hour days on the weekends. I realized that was not who I wanted to be in the world and I needed to find a better way to figure out how to do that. It was a challenge. And I actually have a full course built out around this transformation because it's so important to me to share how that works for teachers and how that is absolutely possible. But for now I tried to set the boundaries around eight hour workdays, no more than working eight hours a week and not working on weekends. Of course, I'm actually just coming off a weekend where I worked both weekend, today's, for several hours each day, but that was probably the first time in months that I had to do that perhaps even in a year, although that's maybe an ambitious statement.
So setting those boundaries, what does it look like to you? To you it might be a different set of numbers. It might mean, yes, I do work on the weekends, but I, you know, make sure I stop at four p.m. every day during the work week. Whatever that looks like for you, I want you to set some boundaries and really choose boundaries that work for you, that makes sense to you, that you think it's viable to stick to. So set your boundaries first.
The next step for scheduling is making sure you're scheduling in alignment with your energy. So for me, I am more creative, more energetic, more alert and more focused in the mornings. And so when my energy is fresh, I want to make sure that I tackle those creation-based tasks. If I'm writing a book chapter, if I'm creating podcast content or writing a blog to pitch on another platform, those are the creation-based tasks that I really want to center my work on in the morning.
In the afternoon, I might do some more either menial tasks like email or logistical pieces that are just kind of quick tasks, or I will maybe do a workshop or meet with someone one on one because I am fueled by the energy of the other people in the space,
and so that keeps me really alert and fresh. It's hard to keep myself there in the afternoons when I'm just by myself. So schedule in alignment with wherever your energy is. Your energy may not be aligned with, you know, when I have energy in a given day, but making sure you're thoughtful about where your energy lies and what tasks are kind of in alignment with that at different points in the day. This is also something I think to think about students and how they are. A lot of our older students are adolescents are really more focused and alert later in the day. Our younger students are more alert and focused earlier in the day. So what does that mean for them in terms of how they show up to your class whenever your class is scheduled, right? And when we asked students to think about completing homework where different things like this, a lot of these things that we're talking about today as adults and educators, this is also really relevant for learners and our students and our youth. So schedule an alignment with your energy.
The next tip I would give is to batch your work. Batching is actually what I'm doing right now. I am recording episodes two through five of that many planning series, sorry, two through six all day today, that's my goal.
I have one workshop in the afternoon and the rest of my time is unscheduled. And so that is the big thing that I'm doing today. I'm batching it so that I can't be in that zone. I can make sure that I remember what I said in the previous episode so that there is flow, I don't have to be distracted by email because I'm not looking at it until I'm done with this task, and I can really just dig right in and do some concentrated work on this. When you get into the zone or what texting behind calls "flow", you're in a flow state. Right time kind of passes. We've all been in those states and various points of our lives, but you kind of don't notice time passing, like, "what, it's lunch already? Wow, that's nuts." You know, I just got started. That is where you want to be for productivity goals and that is what I find a lot when I can batch my work and not have to pay the cost of kind of switching tasks or switching mindsets around the different work that comes up.
When I was teaching, I would actually try to choose a schedule where I was not teaching for back to back class periods, or for a couple of years, I would try to put all of my classes, because my classes only met four times a week, all of my classes on Monday through Thursday and sometimes I wouldn't even have a break Monday through Thursday. But then Friday I would have maybe four hours of concentrated just prep time.
And so I took all of my prep periods from the whole week and just stacked them and I got so much done because I would just hide myself in my room with my headphones, or you know, in a hallway, somewhere where someone couldn't find me and I would just get a ton of lesson planning, grading all that stuff done. So whatever that looks like for you, knowing that we often restart when we're interrupted by either ourselves or someone coming up to us or an email to do an unrelated task, we want to really make sure that we can get in the zone and stay in the zone so that we can be as productive as we can. We don't have to pay that switching costs later on
My 4th tip here around scheduling is to take breaks, to get up, to move. I struggle with this and I used to rarely get up and move from my desk for lunch time and I was teaching. I think this is really important to stand, to stretch, to just get the body moving. Even if it's for 25 seconds just to stand, you know, midway through a zoom meeting and say, I just need to take a stretch break, you can put that in the chat, you know, you could stand whatever and building it into your lessons as well for students,
right? Sometimes we have students that just need to get up and move around and of course they do. They are typically sitting for six or more hours a day. Emily Aries, the host of the Boston Podcast, actually did an episode a while back when we first kind of shifted to a lot of Zoom meetings and she shared that experts actually recommend breaks of 15 minutes, about 10-15 minutes for every two hours of work. So sometimes that works for me, sometimes I'm really in the zone for about four hours and I don't even think of a break because I am not willing to break that flow state that I just spoke about earlier and that's okay to just finding some time that works for you. Maybe that means 20 or 30 minute break every four hours, whatever it is, just make sure you're able to kind of step away from the screen or from whatever it is that you're doing and just make sure that we are able to schedule either a midday walk break or a mid day stretch break or kind of move out of work mode and let our brains kind of clear and relax for a little bit. That is again a struggle for me, but absolutely one that I want to try to do more so that I can fully live into the values of wellness and mental well being that I want to bring to the table and also model for my colleagues and for students.
And my final tip here, tip number five for scheduling, is to put things on the calendar. So let's imagine as I'm sure we've all been in this scenario, you're staring at a long to do list and it feels hopeless to get it all done right. It's an incredibly long list and a colleague emails you or stops by your office or your room and asks you to do something for them. And you say yes because, what's one more thing on your super long to do list? You're never going to get to it anyways, right? And later you read an article about something really cool you want to do in your class or maybe, you know, and even an article about self care, or you're listening to this podcast and you're saying I want to add something else to this list. The to do list will continue growing, will continue to consume your life, and very few of those things get done and there is a lot of research on this. I'm actually going to be talking about this later in the planning series as well : What different productivity experts and different folks say about, you know, what to do with a very long to do list and how to actually make it productive and not overwhelming.
But here is kind of my one key gem that I think I keep returning to and have found incredible value in. I put my to do list on my calendar. So I eliminate the fact that it's even a list at all. But it's even a separate thing separate from my day to day activities on my calendar, I schedule it as if it were a meeting. They're actually events. These to-dos are actually going in as events on my calendar. And so what that requires is estimating the amount of time it will take to complete the task and then adding that amount of time as if it were, for example, a two hour meeting into my calendar. And then once the day is filled up, I know I can't do any more tasks on that day, so I need to add it to the next day. And if something comes up that absolutely has to be done today and I have a couple of things that are actually not time sensitive, but I had just blocked them in my calendar for today, I can move those tasks that got ousted from today to open slots later in the week. And you'll notice that I don't delete them unless they actually don't have to be done,
and that's kind of a mindset shift, right? Thinking about, does that actually need to get done? And if not, maybe that just comes off the plate. It's not a really high leverage activity that's going to get me a lot of growth and movement towards my vision. I don't need to do it and maybe it comes off, but I don't lengthen my workday to get them done, at least I try not to do that. Sometimes I break my own rules, but typically I try to just move them further down the week and you'll notice as you move them further down the week, what your priorities are, they'll kind of come to the surface as you have to make that decision about what gets bumped and where does it get bumped and what absolutely needs to be done this week and what can be done next week or a month from now and it would be totally fine because it's kind of this dream project that you have on the back burner and it's not super urgent right now, but it's something you want to return to again.
We'll talk about that later in the planning series. David Allen has a really great system for going through all of these different types of to-dos and things that could be on your list and what to do with them. So I am excited to talk to you more about this.
But putting it on the calendar, I think is one of the best ways to make sure that the things that need to get done fairly recently, today, tomorrow, this week, next week that those actually get done. That has been really critical for me and also with the caveat of not lengthening my day to get them all done, but keeping within those boundaries that we set that we talked about in tip number one.
So let's go back through those five tips for scheduling. One: set our boundaries. Know when we are going to stop the work day and when we have to say no to meetings or other work. Schedule an alignment with your energy. So know when you are most creative, most focused, most ready to batch and scheduled for that. Number three: batch your work, make sure that we are in the flow state and we can stay in there to make sure we're not paying that switching costs of moving between tasks. Tip four: take breaks whenever you can stand stretch, move around, get up, clear the brain. And tip five : put it on the calendar to make sure that it gets done.
There are a ton more tips coming in the rest of this mini planning series. So just to recap, we have spent the last two, this episode and the one before it, talking about how you spend your time in the 50 40 10 planning method in the previous episode. This episode was all the tips, a hodgepodge of different tips of getting started, building momentum around changing behavior and then scheduling on a day to day basis.
Our next episode in the series is going to be about rethinking the beliefs that get in the way. So digging into the underlying beliefs that prohibit us from moving forward. The following episode will be about clearing the mind. We're going to talk a little bit about essentialism which I find really fascinating. I'm just starting to kind of dive into that way of thinking, but making sure that we have a clear mind so we can have high energy and lots of focus.
Part five is going to be about advancing our personal wellness. So we'll talk about some different aspects of wellness from the literature and some practical strategies we can implement to advance our own wellness. And part six, I think that often gets in the way of all this other stuff, of all this good stuff we're working towards, is how do I lesson plan quickly and efficiently. So we have to spend less time in our planning mode.
Also, if you want me to take you on an in depth walkthrough of how I saved 700 hours of planning time in one year as a teacher, my self paced online course Work Less Teach More is now open for enrollment.
The course is 197 and I don't know about you but my professional and mental well being is worth way more to me than $200. You can enroll today at bit B I T dot lee L Y slash W L TM Course, bit.ly/wltmcourse. I'll also drop that link in the show notes. Now, if you're a school leader who's listening and wanting to help your teachers free up the time and the energy to tackle these big transformative projects you got going, you can purchase this course for your teachers as a pilot for one department or grade team or for the whole school. If any of you educators, either teachers, instructional coaches, leaders want to chat and see if the course would be a good fit, go ahead and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can set up a free 20-minute consultation call to chat with you.
Finally our freebie for the week. This is one of the most popular freebies I think I have ever created, is my scheduling template. It is a digital Google Docs scheduling template that you can just make a copy of and move the pieces around. I also included in addition to the blank template, a concrete schedule example of a teacher working from home.
So that is bit.ly/workfromhomeschedule. Thank you so much for tuning in to another episode of our mini planning series and I will see you in the next episode.
Thanks for listening, amazing educators. If you loved this episode, you can share it on social media and tag me @lindsaybethlyons or leave a review of the show, so leaders like you will be more likely to find it. Until next time leaders, continue to think big, act brave, and be your best self.
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Lindsay Lyons (she/her) is an educational justice coach who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast, Time for Teachership.