Managing your Time, Space, Energy, and Non-Teaching Life

One of the most common issues that comes up when I speak to teachers in See Me After Class Office Hours is something I’ve come to think of as “the treadmill problem.” It’s come up so often that I’ve developed a specialized three-session framework to help teachers get this problem under control.

The treadmill problem shows up in different ways for different teachers, but they tend to have a common pattern. Teachers often hit the ground running at the beginning of the year, pushing harder in response to each challenge. What they can’t do today they over-promise for tomorrow, notching their professional treadmill a bit higher each time, until, suddenly, good intentions aren’t enough to keep up. When you have a treadmill problem, eventually you realize you’re out of breath, and if you don’t slow this thing down, you’re going to fall off. Here are some signs your treadmill is up too high, plus how I might be able to help you turn down the setting:

Your best ideas are falling into the good-intentions abyss
Upkeep is often where teachers’ best intentions go to die. It’s one thing to start a class website, another to keep it up to date. It’s one thing to tell the kids you’re going to create a “hallway behavior compliment chain” that will earn them a pizza party when it stretches across the ceiling; it’s another to make sure that the blank compliment loops are stocked, that you stop class to write down every hallway compliment, and that you find time at the end of every long day to stand on a chair and staple loops to the chain. And if your classroom management strategy rests on sending conduct folders home every Friday? Ouch. A few months into the school year, teachers often find themselves surrounded by the remnants of well-intended ideas. Office Hours can help you figure out how to streamline and when to sideline. The end goal is to get more of your classroom on autopilot so you can spend more time relying on your strengths as a teacher.
Your desk looks like you are building a fort.

Stacks of manila folders and binders cover every flat surface of your classroom, climbing toward the ceiling in ever-more-precarious piles like a game of Jenga. There may or may not be additional piles in the back seat of your car, or on your ironing board at home. Also, for some reason, you keep misplacing your stapler. An Office Hours session can help you set up a system that accounts for all the paper coming your way, and doesn’t require you to be an organization wizard.

You’re operating on the “Oh, s#*t!!!” time-management system
Time and space are connected. After creating files to keep papers from collecting on your desk, you need to designate slots of time in which to keep papers from collecting in your files. If you don’t, you will place yourself on the “Oh, s#*t!!!” time-management system, in which tasks divide themselves into two categories: things that can wait until tomorrow, and things that (“Oh, s#*t!”) can’t. For example, maybe report card grades are due soon, and you better hurry up and grade the papers in some of those folders. Or, there’s a weird sound coming from your car that you hope isn’t a sign of a much bigger problem. You should definitely get the car checked out by a licensed mechanic. But when it comes to organizing your time, I may be able to help.
You’re falling asleep on your couch and waking up the next morning with your shoes still on.
Sometimes, you technically have the time to head to the mechanic and get those papers graded. (Maybe you even planned to multi-task and finish grading while you were waiting for your car to get fixed.) And yet, when the moment finally arrives, you’re too tired or overwhelmed to do either one. Office Hours sessions offer tools for working realistically with your energy levels at different points in the day and week so that you can get the most benefit from your time.
Your to-do list is actually a growing list of un-cross-off-able goals to feel guilty about.

Teachers are their own secretaries. Nothing is a bigger reminder of this than looking at a to-do list of administrative tasks, especially one on which certain items seem to be permanent residents. You’ll feel it especially acutely if some of these items are multipart projects like analyze student data and make up long-term, individualized plans for each student, or vague, ethereal goals, like get better at parent contact. During Office Hours, we can discuss how to identify and avoid certain to-do list pitfalls, helping you get closer to a list of things that are actually doable—and then done.

“What’s a personal life?” you just asked, with a knowing, bitter laugh.

Between classroom difficulties that sap your confidence, exhaustion, and a never-done to-do list, it’s easy to wonder when you’ll have time to meet and date people, or whether your existing relationships and friendships will last, or whether you’ll have time to spend with your own kids. Office Hours can help you regain perspective and remember that it is possible to take care of your students, and yourself, and your life outside of teaching. Because yes, you are supposed to have a life outside of teaching.

Does one or more of the descriptions above ring true? The good news is that all of these are largely solvable problems. If you’d like some help getting things under control in a way that is specific to your own life and classroom, you can book a session of See Me After Class Office Hours using the calendar below.

Simply choose one of the options below and click the “Book Me” button to select an available time from the calendar. If you experience any technical difficulties, you can also try this direct link to the booking page.