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A Day in the Life of a Teacher - Self Interruptions - How to Divert As Many As Possible

Meggin McIntosh

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Tell the truth. . . As a teacher, aren't there times when you actually interrupt yourself? Maybe you've never thought about it that way, but think about it. Here are some ideas to prevent that from happening:

  1. Have what you need before you start. Prior to beginning your work, get everything you need (markers, pens, grade book, construction paper, labels, whatever it might be!) Then there will not be constant jumping up to “go get something" which interrupts your train of thought and often leads to other distractions along the way.
  2. Set up your work space with minimal distractions. Some people can tune out sounds and others can't. You know yourself. If sounds distract you, then create a “sound-free" environment. If background noise helps you focus, plays some soft jazz in the background. If movement distracts you, then don't face the window overlooking the playground. Create a productive environment for yourself.
  3. Disable the sound (and the little yellow envelope signal) on your email (unless you are working with your email). The sound and symbol that alert you to incoming email encourages you to stop what you're doing and turn to your email, leaving whatever you had already consciously ordered as being your next priority. You have control over this.
  4. Set a timer. Use your watch, your PDA, a kitchen timer, or whatever works best for you. Discipline yourself that you will work uninterrupted for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 50 minutes, 90 minutes or whatever is reasonable and feasible. DO NOT GET UP OR ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE DISTRACTED during the entire time. It is phenomenal the difference that this can make.
  5. Have phrases that help you refocus. “Right now, " “Focus, " “Productivity, " “Get back to work, " “In the zone, " are all phrases that can work, but you have to find the right one for you.
  6. Set appointments with yourself and stick to them. Let's say you need a couple of hours on Saturday to concentrate on grading a set of papers so that you can get them back to your students on Monday. You decide to work on the project from 10 a. m. until noon, but you do not put it on your calendar. Meanwhile, someone calls and asks if you can meet Saturday at 10:30 for coffee. You glance at your calendar and see nothing scheduled and say, ‘Sure, why not. '  You have allowed this person, however unknowingly, to steal the time you had set aside for grading. If, on the other hand, you've written your grading appointment into your calendar, you have three options:

  • Suggest a different meeting time. Say, “I've got a grading appointment from 10:00 - 12:00, but I could meet you at 12:30. "
  • Adjust your grading time. For example, change your grading appointment to 8:00 - 10:00, and then meet your friend for coffee.
  • Indicate that you already have an appointment that day and can't meet at all.

It's your life, you get to choose. Note: You might want to read that last sentence again.

Setting and keeping appointments for particular projects, like grading or planning for upcoming units or lessons, is a first step. BUT, then you have to stay focused on your project and neither let others interrupt you nor interrupt yourself.   By using the ideas in this article, you will be amazed at the decrease in interruptions and the increase in your productivity. By being proactive, you get to regain and/or retain control of one of your most valuable resource, i. e. , your time.

And since, as an educator, you have one of the most influential positions in our society-you need every bit of support that can be mustered. Two resources that will help increase educators’ sense of peaceful, predictable productivity are Meggin's weekly emails:

**Top Ten Productivity Tips ( )

**Keys to Keeping Chaos at Bay ( )

(c) 2008 by Meggin McIntosh, Ph. D. , “The Ph. D. of Productivity"(tm)

Through her company, Emphasis on Excellence, Inc. , Meggin McIntosh changes what people know, feel, dream, and do via seminars, workshops, writing, coaching, and consulting.


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