The basic idea is that we should reflect on our time at work to determine the activities that we really love doing – the tasks that give us energy, make us feel productive and successful and that we wish we could do all the time. Once we determine what those things are, we should try to arrange our time so that we’re doing those at key times during the day and as often as possible.
The rationale for all of this is that you’re most productive when you’re working in your strengths. If you spend all your time just trying to improve or work through your weaknesses, you’re going to be miserable and less productive. Of course we can’t all just change our job descriptions to only do the parts we love, but we can strategically think about how we spend our time in order to feel stronger and have more energy at work. Here are some ideas:
Adjust your schedule. If you’re an instructional leader and coaching teachers is what you really love to do, put those meetings at the beginning of the day so that you start the day strong. Or if you like to get the less pleasant tasks out of the way first, maybe you save those coaching sessions for the end of the day so that you always go home feeling great about your job. If you’re a teacher, your time during class and planning periods is often yours to rearrange similarly. I was terrible at trying to focus enough mental energy to plan a whole lesson during a 50 minute block, so instead I did necessary but less intense tasks like making copies and entering grades. I saved lesson planning for early mornings because that’s when I felt most productive and focused and doing that made me feel strong going into the day. Now I do the same thing when writing these blogs.
Find ways to sneak in more of what you love. If you love working with small groups of students, do that more often during class. If connecting with students gives you energy, stop by the cafeteria during breakfast and lunch to talk with kids more often. Our director of leadership development loves doing career coaching and so has an open invitation for anyone to meet with him. It isn’t directly in his job description, but he loves doing it and so makes time for it. If you feel like you don’t have time to include more of what you love, remember that you’re more productive when you’re in that ‘zone’ and it also gives you energy, which will carry over to the times when you have to do those less desirable tasks.
Consider other people’s strengths. As teachers or instructional leaders, we need to remember that other people aren’t always productive in the same ways we are. Sometimes we prescribe one way of doing things that we know works (for us), and we expect all of our students or the teachers we support to do it that same way. Take some time to find out what tasks others really love doing and try to adapt your approach to allow them to work in their strengths, as well. If some of your students really prefer to work alone, let them do it even if others are working in groups. Or if some teachers seem frustrated by the planning template you love, could you adapt some parts so that it works better for them?
Attach meaning to your work. I got this one from a trusted colleague. When she’s about to begin a task she doesn’t want to do, she stops for a moment to find meaning in it. Which students will benefit from this? How will this help my team? By doing this, she can make undesirable tasks into true contributions and so get more satisfaction and energy from them.
How do you get more energy at work? Add your strategies in the comments.