We all experience days where we enter our workplace feeling completely overwhelmed over all that needs to be accomplished. Everything feels like a priority, and it’s almost impossible to figure out where to begin.
First Things First
Effective prioritization is not something that comes easy to everyone, but there are things that can be done to develop this important skill. You’ve got to begin somewhere, so how about start by trying the following 3 things.
- Establish “I want to…” vs. “I need to…” Throughout the day of a professional educator, there are many things that absolutely need to be done. From attendance record keeping to follow-up communication with parents, there are tasks on the list that require attention today. On the other hand, there are activities that are certainly important but perhaps not as time sensitive or urgent, such as planning groups for the field trip next week. The question is, do those things really need to be done today? Make a list of all of the things on your plate that need to be done on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Next, make a list of all of the things that you want to accomplish on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. This will not only help you begin to prioritize, but will also help you shift your mind to understanding where to begin with your to do lists.
- Be reasonable with yourself. Once you begin to prioritize the “need to” and “want to” lists, you can develop a functional to do list for the day or week. Be reasonable with this exercise. A to do list of 25 items in a single day is probably not attainable. It can also set you up to feel bad about not getting it all done. Consider how much time you have to accomplish your tasks and assign yourself a maximum number. Do you have 75 minutes to focus on your list? Would that be enough time to check off five items? Is it ten items? You are human, and you juggle a hugely important job each day. Strike a balance between challenging yourself and cutting yourself a little slack when you generate that list of priorities.
- Be flexible. Flexibility does not come naturally to everyone, but it is a critical attribute of the professional educator. From student absences to fire drills and assemblies, no two days are exactly alike for any teacher. Your priorities will change from time to time, depending on what comes your way. Take a deep breath and ask yourself if this new item on your plate is urgent for today, and if so, what you can push off to tomorrow to address this new priority.
It often feels like there is never enough time to get it all done. This feeling can be overwhelming and very stressful. However, when you take some time to step back and take deliberate actions over your priorities, you’ll feel a little more calm. Effective prioritization will increase your overall efficiency and give you a sense of accomplishment, propelling you forward in the incredibly important role that you play each day for your students and your school community.