Setting Up for Success – Plan a Weekly Date with Yourself

May 21, 2021

When it comes to getting things done, I have found there are 2 camps of people—the Procrastinator and the Prepper – although some people can fall somewhere in the middle.  Most of the time, I am somewhere in the middle. I will prep to an extent, but then fly by the seat of my pants and am in it for the adventure.  Work is something different for me, though, especially with teaching, and especially as a virtual teacher where I am pretty much in control of my schedule.

I have a variety of life experiences and many different types of supervisors that have helped me learn how to manage my time effectively, from making a list of 6 things to do each day, to making sure I have something to do at all times, even if the job isn’t busy.  In short, I adopted the work smarter, not harder mentality of working.

With those ideas in mind and struggling my first semester, I learned to set up a weekly date with myself to plan out my week.  I tried several different methods and days to accomplish this and have gone through so many types of planners. I have finally streamlined my process and have used it all school year and have found it to be easy to use, quick and not a dreaded task each week.

I chose to have my weekly date on Friday mornings and spend 30 minutes completing this task.  I sit down with my Outlook Calendar that is part of my work email, which saves me money and time since this is where my meetings and appointment calls are already plugged in—more about how to print that later.  First, I review my week so far and see what I still need to accomplish that day. If there’s anything I can’t fit in that isn’t time sensitive, I just move it to the next week. Then, I start planning the week.  I find it helps to create recurring tasks that I know I have every week to do—grading, email, reports, even my workouts and lunch time is plugged in since I will work straight through!  I start with fixed time things like appointments from my personal calendar, times I meet with my students and classes, training sessions, meetings, etc.  Next, I adjust any recurring tasks that may overlap or are flexible. Then, I look for gaps since some days are slower than others and can plug in projects or personal development tasks, I have on a backburner that I want to tackle. I do have blocks of time each week just for personal development and projects so I can continuously focus on refining my craft.  Finally, I set work hours for each day and put them in the calendar, too. My hours vary from day to day since I have some early schools, late parent calls, my schools are on block schedules, so the time of classes changes every other day, so I flex my time.

a screenshot of what the printout will look like

Now, I am ready to print my schedule since I like to have a checklist.  I simply choose the print option for my Outlook Calendar (Ctrl + P is the fastest way) and choose the weekly agenda style. Once printed, I like to highlight the day and hours I am working, then highlight the fixed appointments I can’t miss.  I also white out the weekend days to create a notes section so as I think of tasks for next week or future project/personal development ideas, I can jot them down and address them on Friday and avoid getting lost in distraction.

The benefits of having this weekly date with yourself is helping to find a balance of your work and personal life.  I do NOT work weekends and rarely work more than my 8-hour day unless I choose to.  Plus, I only have to think about it one time, then it’s just checking things off or adding in scheduled calls to a block I already have set aside.  This means I have less distractions and more time on task during my week, plus I can anticipate any gaps or conflicts by merging my work and personal calendars.  Since I am not a morning person, this helps me start my day on task and organized, and I can eat that frog right away!  (Not familiar with the Eat the Frog concept?  Check out the blog post from last year here.)

A couple of other things I do along with this include filing that calendar page away in a folder just in case I ever have to show my work hours and tasks. Also, I reset my workspace daily by clearing my desk, and twice per week I clean my office and keep it decluttered since a busy day can make a huge mess!

In reflection, which of these practices do you already use?  Which could you see yourself using?  Do you still have questions or need more help? No problem!  Comment below or find me on Twitter @AddictedtoTeac1 and in Facebook I have a group called Addicted to Teaching. I’d love to chat more and help you out!

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Managing Your Time Effectively

How I get it all done in 3 simplified steps

Sonya Barnes August 1, 2019

Effective time management.  Good use of time.  We hear these buzz phrases often and we know what it means, but many of us struggle with the application and concept of what it looks like.  I’ve been blessed to work with and for several people that were great at this and trained me well.  I feel like I handle it pretty well, even though I still have my moments of lost days and utter confusion of what to do.  But I have taken several things from several places over the years and implemented them for awhile now and am quite proud that I have very few occasions of missing or forgetting something.  I have shared these with fellow educators over the years and thought I’d get this out there and share with a few more.  I will break it into a few different sections for easy application and will also create videos that break each step down into a visual, allowing you time to work them into your daily life so that you can not only get everything done that you need to, but also get more enjoyment out of life since you’ll accomplish more and stress less. So, without further ado, let’s jump in!

A generic version of my time zones – be as specific as you need to be!

Step 1: Assigning “Time Zones” Start with a weekly calendar that breaks each day down by hour increments.  Whether you find/create a digital version or create a paper one just comes down to your own preference.  Next, choose three different color markers or highlighters and assign a category.  I like to use green for WORK, blue for HOME, and pink for FAMILY/PERSONAL for association, but any color will work.  If you need to add additional categories such as self-care or a second job, then absolutely do so.  The final step in this category is to go through and color outline (or color fill if you are using a computer) and assign the times.  I usually start with my job since those hours are pretty set.  Then, I go through and sort out the remaining time for when I will complete home responsibilities like cleaning, cooking, errands, paying bills, etc. as well as the family/personal time for workouts, date nights, family outings.  There will be some weeks that this will vary, but for most of us, our weeks we are working are fairly straightforward.  I try and generalize this step so I can hang it on the wall, and it makes it easier to glance when I need to schedule something or decide whether to say yes or no to an invitation to something.

A simple post it in my planner reminds me of my tasks by day

Step 2: Assigning Task Days Now that I have my weekly calendar time zones figured out,  I can plug in my tasks.  If you are like me, you have some tasks at both work and home that are repetitive daily, weekly, or monthly.  Now is the time to go through and plug in when you will complete which tasks.  For example, in my job, I have lesson plans, copying, grading, parent phone calls, duty and meetings that routinely occur, so I assign them a day and time of day to do them.  I also will plug in a spot for monthly tasks to have a day, as well, such as data collecting or student chats so that they have a recurring time.  I do the same for home responsibilities like laundry, cleaning, yard work, shopping and bill paying.  I also like to leave a place holder spot for appointments so that I can plug in a doctor, dentist or hair appointment into that spot and it keeps the flow of our routine for everyone.  Family or personal time can get marked with a workout regiment or sports activities you routinely accomplish or would like to work in but have never found the time to do.

Digitizing everything into my Reminders app as weekly recurring tasks or calendar items can help on those super busy days

Step 3: Organizing and Digitizing It All This final step is crucial to making it stick and turn into a habit that will keep you organized and running a bit smoother.  In this step, I add the tasks to my digital calendar and invite relevant parties.  For example, recurring household chores or appointments get logged and I invite my spouse and children that have devices.  Personal or work-related tasks get added to my own calendar, but my family has viewing permissions of my calendar so that if they have something come up they need to schedule at an unexpected time, they know exactly how it fits into the schedule.  If you are not a tech savvy person or don’t use a digital calendar, then you can mark this in your lesson plan book, day planner or on a family command center calendar, or even just something as simple as hanging your color-coded and filled in schedule on the refrigerator or by the family calendar can help keep everyone informed.  Without placing this information somewhere that you will see it and be able to reference it, you will find it difficult to stick to it.  With my teaching tasks, I will write it on a post it note and tape it to my computer for a few weeks while I get into the routine, especially since it may vary from year to year, depending on my classroom assignments or month to month depending on my duty schedule.

This may seem like a very rigid and difficult thing to accomplish, but it will lend itself to a much less stressful daily life and a much higher productivity level.  I have been running this model for a few years now and have found that I take less work home with me, get more time with my family, and never miss deadlines.  All of these contribute to a happier and less stressful life.  It may take some tweaking to get it down to something that works with your lifestyle and if you don’t have as many directions to go in, you may be able to simplify some of it for your own habits.  Whatever you do, I hope that this helps you manage your time much more effectively.

If you are interested in the step by step videos to accomplish this, head over to YouTube and subscribe to my channel to get notified. I will have a video breaking down each step posted on Sunday, August 4th. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCupISfBEejlSrXzNPDhN7cg?view_as=subscriber