Work Smarter, Not Harder: Educator’s Edition

Written by Leslie Kiel
Innovative Learning Specialist
Five Star Technology Solutions

Tumble outta bed
And I stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch
And try to come to life

Jump in the shower
And the blood starts pumpin’
Out on the street
The traffic starts jumpin’
The folks like me on the job from 9 to 5

Workin’ 9 to 5,
What a way to make a livin’

Work Smarter Not Harder - Five Star Technology Solutions

Ah, the daily grind. Dolly perfectly captures the hustle of the morning work routine, but if you’re familiar with the rest of this classic, her lyrics don’t quite seem to tell the tale for us in the education world. Working 9 to 5? Please, on a slow week (#iykyk). Climbing the corporate ladder? What ladder?

The business world seems to get all the love. Whether chart-topping songs, best-selling novels chalk full of success tips, or TV shows centered on “making it” in the corporate sphere, there’s no shortage of entrepreneurs looking to help out the up and coming. But when it comes to practical advice for educators, it often feels like the well runs dry. Where are our life hack lists? Educators are some of the busiest people I know!

So that’s why we’ve borrowed, nay, curated, a list of tips that are normally lost on the corporate-types and tailored them to apply in our world of education. 

Working smarter, not harder, educator style:

1. Delegate

There’s not an efficiency list in existence that doesn’t mention something about delegating, but the thought of delegating likely gives us in the education world a chuckle. Delegate? To whom? Delegating is all well and good for the business world where it’s not uncommon to have an assistant, but for folks in the classroom, we have to get creative. So how can we offload tasks? One of the simplest ways is to make Google your assistant!  

Listening into some summer PD while multitasking? Have your assistant (ahem, Google) take notes for you with voice typing in Docs. Have a brilliant idea while you’re on the go? Let Google Keep’s voice-to-text option jot it down and send you a reminder about it later.

Harnessing the power of Google just might be the next best thing to a personal assistant!

2. Touch It Once Principle

In the past decade, the advice to touch incoming mail or paperwork only once and then immediately act on it has made plenty of productivity lists. And for good reason—think about how many times you’ve opened an email out of curiosity only to leave it as an action item for another time. So the Touch It Once Principle sounds reasonable in theory, but without specifics, it stays exactly that—theory. 

For teachers and administrators, one of the fastest ways you can benefit from this principle is to get a little help from Gmail. Filters help you set rules for your inbox, so why not get bossy and put Gmail to work before you even see incoming mail? By setting rules like mark as important or skip the inbox, you’ll spend less time opening and reopening incoming messages. Then, take the touch once principle further by applying it to  outgoing mail; with Gmail’s templates, you can have nearly-crafted emails ready at the click of a button.

3. Create routines 

Lifehack lists made for business circles often preach creating routines and daily habits for success. But the kind of structure they recommend—pepper your day with breaks, limit yourself to three big tasks a day—doesn’t always translate to our world. 

Work Smarter Not Harder - Creating Routines

Instead, one of the smartest ways educators can create a routine is to rethink our curation practices. When you are prepping and planning for the upcoming school year, where do all your ideas go? If your answer is “in more than one place,” a consistent digital tool will help you build a habit that pays off big time down the road. Curate like a boss with a tool like Wakelet, which allows you to save and organize content (articles, videos, images, Tweets, etc.) into a one-stop collection. Never lose or misplace your brilliant ideas again! And as a bonus, by curating efficiently, you’ll be left with more time to…

4. Do more of the work you enjoy

This one is popular. Even Steve Jobs recommended it. But what does doing more of what we love look like for educators specifically? 

Remember decision fatigue is real, and if there’s ever a time to postpone the type of work you don’t enjoy in favor of what you do, it’s summer. That’s the beautiful thing about June and July. When we have a moment to step out of the hamster wheel, suddenly we are able to catch our breath, and entertain new ideas as we experience the world at a more reasonable pace. 

So this summer, go ahead—envision the PBL possibilities as you go camping and solve problems in nature. Wallow in the power of reflection as you slow your pace. Take advantage of free PD as you lounge by the pool. Doing more of what we love in summer can cause a domino effect that extends into the school year!

5. Measure your results, not your time

Somewhere in a high-rise corner office, a seasoned entrepreneur is passing on this wisdom to a young protegé. But why shouldn’t measuring results over time apply to the world of education? Let’s not count our progress in hours spent on summer PD or days spent back in the building. Instead, let’s measure in the ideas we give life to. 

If you’re counting on seeing major results from the time you invest, don’t miss the Five Star Launch—a series that includes both live virtual workshops and self-paced courses that offer microcredentials. With session series specifically designed for administrators (Lead) or educators (Teach), participants can join a cohort and gain perspective from others or work with their own team through the journey as a district.

Teachers and administrators may not get the bulk of life hack lists or efficiency advice from CEO millionaires, but we’ve got the lion’s share of resourcefulness. WIth a little ingenuity, we’ll tailor their tips for education just fine. So the next time you feel like you’re stuck in a Dolly Parton classic—Barely gettin’ by, It’s all takin’ and no givin’—lean into the small and practical. It’s a calling like no other, but what a way to make a livin’.