By Ish Stabosz
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Okay, so you’re probably wondering what the weird countdown in the title is all about. Where are 4 and 3? you’re asking.
If you have kids, you might already get the reference.
You see, every time I take my kids to the pediatrician, or whenever I’m on hold with them on the phone, or whenever I go to their website–I get bombarded with the same 5-2-1-0 healthy eating campaign. It goes some like this:
Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and veggies every day.
Spend 2 or less hours of time in front of a screen every day.
Get at least 1 hour of exercise every day.
Drink 0 sugary drinks (but really, they say “almost none”).
What is this doing on a teaching blog? you may wonder.
Well, I’ve recently come up with a plan to keep myself more productive. It’s more like a set of rules, actually, and it just so happens to fit in nicely within the same framework as my pediatrician’s healthy eating campaign. And, while it might not be particularly related to teaching, productivity is certainly an important virtue for anyone in education.
So, I’ve dubbed it my 5-2-1-0 of productivity. I’ve found that just having these rules laid out for myself in a memorable format makes it much more likely that I’ll obey them.
5 – As in, the hour of the day I wake up every morning
I’ve got three kids at home under the age of five, so me time is a pretty hot commodity. I’ve found that if I wake up at 5:00 AM every day, I (almost) always get one to two hours of quiet time before the hustle and bustle of life gets started. This is time to relax, drink coffee, and get ready to take on the world. To make it clear, I don’t typically do work during this time. But, I’ve found that by not rushing my mornings I am much more efficient at getting things done once the work day does start.
Perhaps the most effective productivity hack I’ve found is spending a few minutes during this quiet time to plan out my day hour-by-hour. I just open up the calendar app on my phone and literally create new items until every minute of the work day is covered. I don’t leave open time for getting lost on Facebook or twiddling my thumbs until I decide what I want to work on next.
2 – The number of times I check my email every day
When I’m making my daily calendar, I schedule in two 15-minute email sessions.
See, I used to be in the habit of checking my email all the time (it even became a way to procrastinate). But then I would see an email that required a complex reply, and I’d say “Oh, I’ll get to that one later.” Then I would keep telling myself that every time I checked my email for the next four days and never actually got around to replying.
Now that I’ve scheduled my email checking, I have found that I can almost always get through everything in 15 minutes. My inbox is never crowded anymore, and I have virtually no unreturned emails looming over me for days on end.
1 – An hour every day on a BIG to do
In my line of work, I’ve got plenty of regular work that’s always pretty much the same. It’s predictable and doesn’t need to be planned out on a large scale. But I’ve also got plenty of projects, or BIG to dos as I call them.
These are the things that take serious strategic planning and require a lot of hours invested over a long range of time. The inner-college student in me would just forget about these big projects until a week or so before they were due, and then cram like the dickens to get them done. Alas, such behavior was better reserved for a time in life with less responsibilities and less work ethic.
Now, when I make my daily schedule, I work in at least one hour to be spent working towards one of my BIG to dos. That way, at the end of the week, I can say that I’ve spent at least five hours checking off some major goals. If only I could convince my students to do the same with their essays.
0 – That’s right, zero minutes on social media everyday
Facebook is fun. It’s easy. It’s engaging. But let’s face it–Facebook is a black hole. It’s productivity’s worst nightmare.
So during the work day, I don’t spend time on social media. There are a few exceptions to this rule, though.
First, I do use social media as part of work (to promote this blog, for example). But that’s always part of my schedule, so it doesn’t really suck away my time.
Second, I do check in on Facebook on my phone as I walk from one place to the other (yea, I’m that guy holding up traffic in the hallway). This is time that would otherwise be wasted, so I think of these hallway Facebook checks as another productivity hack.
Finally, I always schedule a half hour break into my work day. That’s when I eat my lunch, play a video game or two, and catch up on social media. It’s my time, not work time. So I don’t count it as breaking the rule.
So that’s my 5-2-1-0 of productivity. I don’t imagine the same rules would work for everyone, but I do think that everyone could benefit from creating some sort of memorable productivity rules to keep them focused.
Give it a shot. What would your 5-2-1-0 rules be? Share them in the comments.