Saturday, March 11, 2017

Understanding Time: Part 1

Two weeks ago, I spent seven hours of my Sunday on school tasks.  Last weekend, I spent about four and a half.  This weekend?  I'm hoping for one hour, but I'm a dreamer that way.  Regardless of what tomorrow's tally shows, I know I spend more time on school than I should.  I'm also positive that I am not alone.  It's not all that unusual for teachers to spend most of their Sundays grading or planning.  I'm not sure when that became an acceptable norm or expectation, but I think it's time to take back Sundays and several weekday hours too.

Fact:  I spend between ten and twelve hours a day at school.  My typical hours are about 6:45 to 5, but occasionally that is more like 6:45 to 7:00.  But, I feel like ALL I am ever doing is PLANNING.  How in the world can that be?  Is it perception?  I can't really be spending 50-55 hours at school, teaching about 25 hours and then PLANNING 25 hours, can I?

That doesn't work, for an English teacher, I should add.  The papers, they multiply faster than bunnies - only they aren't usually as cute.

Being the logical analytic that I am, I decided to see if my perception was reality or if I was simply a head-case.  Foreshadowing alert, I'm sane.

Armed with a healthy dose of curiosity, nothing to lose, and my iPhone, I decided to track my time for an entire month to figure out how I was spending my time.

Utilizing Technology

I've had the Eternity app on my iPhone for a LONG time.  I do not remember where I encountered it, but I've been studying organizing, time management, list systems, and productivity for almost a decade and a half.  At some point someone very smart and together recommended it, and I downloaded it.  So, it finally time to really give that app a workout.

I started on that fateful Sunday when I had to work over 7 hours.  I wanted to get a feel for what was taking me so much time.  I tracked every moment.  Every time I switched tasks physically, I switched in the app.  (If you're thinking that sounds like a pain, it is, but I'm doing this in the name of science and sanity.)

I have have HOME and WORK and then lots of "tasks" beneath each.

The Work Categories (created by me in Eternity)

1.  Teaching
2. Time wasting: spacing off, looking at Amazon, whatever
3.  Daily/weekly/Long range planning
4.  History planning
5. History grading
6. English 8 planning
7. English 8 grading
8. English 9 planning
9. English 9 grading
10. Professional reading and research
11. Cleaning, Filing & Organizing
12. Listing and Reflecting
13.  Other
14. Socializing

Note:  You can add as many different work categories as you want in Eternity.  These are the ways in which I spend my work hours.

The Terrible, No-Good, Very Bad Sunday - 7 hours of Work

Created within Eternity App
After the day was over, this was my breakdown.

Daily/Weekly/Long Range Plans - 42 minutes
  • This was a mix of rough sketching the week ahead and then matching that against the rest of March, then tweaking since our spring break begins near the end of March.
History planning - 3 hours 49 minutes
  • This was a massive time suck and the return was not good.  My general rule is: Do not spend more time planning something - a lesson or activity, than it's going to take you to execute it.  So if it's an hour long lesson, it should take less than an hour to plan, create, and copy anything for it.  This was a FAIL.  I was teaching Jacksonian Democracy, and I don't really like lecturing.  Additionally, it's a prep that I've taught long ago and then regained last year, so the content is no longer fresh in my head.  So I found a PBS Documentary and previewed it:  1 hour and 40 minutes.  Then I had to re-watch to pare it down to an hour whilst creating a viewing guide with questions.  Chances are good that I'll be teaching this class again next year, so I guess there's that, but I broke my rule and wasted a lot of my Saturday on a topic I don't really like all that much.

Do not spend more time planning a lesson or activity than it's going to take you to execute it.

English 9 planning - 2 hours 15 minutes
  • This is only my second year with this prep, so I'm a slow planner.  We're reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and I still do not know the deep thinking stuff as well as I need to. This time was spent rereading the chapters, writing a quiz, and going through my folders to decide what to use for the week.  

Listing and reflecting - 15 minutes
  • This was a weekly review of the week: checking out my calendar and obligations and putting it into my planner and scheduling my planning tasks into the week.  David Allen GTD Style.  

My Takeaways

When the papers had settled and I woke up the next day, I was able to really analyze this information and notice a few things.

Primarily - I should have just gotten in my car and driven the 10 pathetic minutes to work because...

1.    I would have been able to send copies as I finished typing them -  saving me about 20 minutes on Monday morning.
2.  I would have shaved a few HOURS off my time. Going through the Jackson binder this past week, I saw that the previous teacher showed the same documentary and already had a reading guide for it.  I reinvented the wheel, and it wasn't any rounder than the one made before me.
3.   I would have saved time from disruptions.  Family and technology.  Neither is much of a problem at work.

What should YOU Takeaway from my Sunday of Pain?

1.  Make sure you are not reinventing the wheel.  Take a thorough glance through your materials before researching and creating.  Call or text a teacher that teaches the same thing.  Does s/he have anything you can use?  Join a few Facebook groups and ask.  Last resorts - Google, Pinterest, or Teachers Pay Teachers.  These are last resorts because they also take time.

2.  Even though no one wants to spend a weekend in their classroom, it may create just the mental atmosphere needed.  You will work faster to get the heck out of there.

3.  Working at work allows you to take care of more tasks as they come up which will save you time in the short term AND the long term.

Coming up in Part 2 - I'll breakdown a WHOLE week of time spent and the takeaways from that, and in Part 3, I'll show a contrast of second week tracked and how I learned to tag my time for additional data.  Finally, in Part 4, I'll post my final week of tracking.  At the end of each, look forward to my lessons.  Week 4's post will include a handy printable.

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