I don’t know about you, readers, but I am a big time list maker. But, not all lists are created equal. In the past, my to-do lists just seemed to just grow and grow. However, long-term projects like cleaning out my over-packed storage closet or making a catalog of the books I have in my classroom library seemed to constantly get pushed aside as pesky little day-to-day tasks popped up. How can you keep up with all the demands that are constantly coming your way? I felt like no matter how hard I worked at my list, I couldn’t keep up!
Then I found a to-do list that has been a GAME CHANGER. There are a couple of things I like about my new list:
- It visualizes how long an item has been on the list
- It uses a scheduling component, so you can see how much time you have available to work on tasks (or not)
- It has two columns, one for listing and one for assigning a time to complete tasks from the list
Step One: Create Your Daily Schedule
I divide my day into three 30-minute sections:
8:00-8:30 AM = AM
10:30-11:00 AM = PM1
3:00-3:30 PM = PM2
Obviously, your schedule at your school is probably different than mine, so write down what works for you. But I love dividing my day into 30-minute sections because it is a perfect amount of time to accomplish most of the tasks on my list. So look through your day and see what kind of time YOU have available.
Step Two: Create The List
Now you are ready to make your list. I like to use a legal pad for my list. Divide your paper in half by drawing a line down the middle. The right half will be your list and the left half will be your daily schedule (see the picture below). The first time that you create this list, Levels 1 and 2 will be empty. This is where items will go if you do not complete them this week.
Make sure to write in to the schedule any meetings or rehearsals that you already have scheduled, so you can get a realistic idea of how much or your planning time is actually free, so you can prioritize what most needs to be done today.
Also, make note of any items on your list that need to be done by a specific day that week. They may need to take priority. I marked a T with a circle around it to show an item that needed to be done by Tuesday.
Step Three: Prioritizing
Now that you have your time all blocked out for Monday, you can look at your list and figure out what things to do. The general rule is that whatever is at the top of the list should be done first, but sometimes other things take priority. You may have time-sensitive items, or the item that is next on the list may require more time than you have available for the day. Or maybe you just aren’t feeling motivated to clean the closet, but you’d be fine creating a worksheet for an upcoming lesson.
As the week progresses, more items will add to the list, and of course, some items will come off it as well. Here is how I handle some of those moments when things don’t go perfectly.
ITEMS THAT TAKE LONGER THAN 30 MINUTES
So yes, the schedule is broken in to 30 minutes slots, but if you have an item that takes more time than that, simply allocate more time.
I DIDN’T GET SOMETHING DONE THAT I SCHEDULED
Yes. Of course I have times where everything that I had planned to get done doesn’t get done. ALL. THE. TIME. But just pop it back on the schedule the next day. I realized that setting up the stage was a lot more time intensive than I thought, so I blocked out an extra hour on Wednesday to get it done. If at first you don’t succeed, put it on the schedule again.
Step Four: Rinse and Repeat (What To Do On Week 2, 3 and Beyond)
Here is a look at my schedule at the end of the week.
At this point, it is time to tear off the top sheet and create next week’s schedule. Draw a line like before, and this time, you will have some stuff in Levels 2 and 3, since some of my stuff from the first week carried over into the next week. So, anything from Level 3 last week goes up to Level 2. Level 3 on the new sheet starts out blank, but will get filled in as you come up with stuff during the week. See the picture below to see how everything transferred.
Then, I start filling things in, just like before.
At the end of this week, here is what my list looks like:
And just like before, when it’s time to create the next weeks schedule, we just transfer everything up one level. Anything that is in Level 2 goes to Levels 1, and anything in Level 3 goes to Level 2 to start the new week.
Tips For Long-Term Projects
I recommend that you try and put aside one segment each day (or at the minimum, one segment each week) to working on a long-term project. Now let me clarify. Taking time to work on a long-term project doesn’t mean that one day I clean my whole closet and the next day I plan out lesson plans for the rest of the year. I do not have superpowers! I take that 30 minutes that I have scheduled, and chip away at a portion of the project. Maybe I organize 1 shelf in my storage closet. Maybe I plan ahead one lesson in one grade level. Whatever fits in my 30 minutes. Then I leave it until another day.
I think it is VERY important to find time for looking ahead everyday and doing something “long-term.” You will find that by dedicating a little time to planning ahead will mean that you will begin to free up more and more time. Instead of reacting to situations, you will already have prepared ahead of time. It’s the equivalent of driving and watching the road directly in front of your car, versus looking farther ahead of you to see what is coming. Don’t let events like field trips and performances, or even your next lesson, “crash” into you. Be scanning the horizon for them so you can steer your “vehicle” smoothly.
The Final Step: Get to Work!
Now all that remains is to do what you set out to do and check those items off one by one. I’ll bet that you will leave each day feeling a greater sense of accomplishment. And over time, you will start to feel less like you are buried in work and that it has become more manageable. Best of luck!
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