We, in education, sometimes feel like we need to do it all. I am here to tell you, no. You don’t have to. In fact, I am going to recommend that if you are indeed trying to do it all, you will actually accomplish less. How do I know this? Because the more I take on, the less I successfully complete. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the most important goals and commitments in my professional life and I wanted to share my reading list with you.
This short list has some of the best books I have read on productivity. They are diverse and cover a range of approaches and schools of though. Ultimately, productivity systems are deeply personal. My system will not be the same as yours but we are all trying to reach our maximum efficiency for our efforts.
There are a ton of benefits that technology offers teachers; easier posting of content, flipping classrooms, better tracking of student performance, never grading multiple choice again. And yet, the more that I automate, the more I fill my time by doing more. In other words, the to do list is never complete. I redesign lessons, or add in additional resource links to my learning management system, or expand my gamified classroom.
Technology liberates teachers and students but it also can be a place where a lot of time is wasted on new inefficiencies. I continually struggle with keeping my list of professional projects and goals focused. My hope is to improve what I already do rather than always looking to adopt another tech tool or teaching strategy.
I run a gamified, blended, individualized, classroom. Isn’t that enough? Sometimes it is, and then other times, I think to myself…“project based learning sounds good, I should try that next week!”…or… “gee, I should make lesson X more engaging by adding technology Y”…Do you ever find yourself doing that? Thinking about adopting another project when you already have too much to do already? Staying focused for teachers in a paperless class is a challenge because of the endless ways you could upgrade your teaching. Just because you can though doesn’t mean you should.
To help you in managing your busy schedule, check out the list of books below. They are all really approachable and fast reads. At the same time, these were indispensable in helping me decide by values as a paperless teacher.
Essentialism: Amazing book to read for anyone who is feeling like they are just doing too much but feel underaccomplished. This isn’t the time management book on the list. This offers a way to evaluate your commitments and a system to rid yourself of everything that is nonessential. Easily a book I could read once a year.
Getting Things Done: This is your time management book. I can’t think of another book that had a greater impact on my productivity setup. The author’s system is multi-layered. So while complex, it is simply a guide to help you establish your own system.
Drive: The core message of this book is simple…don’t use external rewards to motivate you or your students. At least, not all the time. The author does a really good job of explaining how to leverage motivators to maximize your potential. The lessons could also be applied to motivating students and gamifying a class. This is otherwise a really fun and fast read.
The Power of Full Engagement: While Getting Things Done is all about time management, Power of Full Engagement is all about energy management. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and drinking (water) are vital to help teachers perform their best. It is hard to meet those needs consistently with a full work day. Therefore, this book offers great advice for maximizing your energy levels throughout the day.
Making Ideas Happen: Teaching is a creative career and using technology to put your content online allows for even more creativity. Sometimes, creative professionals like us start a lot of projects but can’t seem to carry them through consistently. This book will help you setup a system to consistently make your awesome ideas a reality.
Virtual Freedom: Ok, I know this one sparks conversations between me and my coworkers. Virtual Freedom is a productivity book all about outsourcing work. Now, those of us in education can’t outsource being in a classroom for the day. But teacher’s don’t have to do it all. Do teachers have to create every Slide presentation themselves? Or alone, manage a sport or club schedule? Or type up a worksheet for tomorrow’s lesson? Nope.
Assistants and freelancers can be found really easily that can help you manage your busy life and classroom. How many hours do you have in a day? 24, right? Nope…consider, you have as many hours as you can hire other people to work for you.
Switch: A fantastic book about counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can more easily change. This book is a motivator for all those habits you promised yourself you would adopt but haven’t yet.
Ditching paper and teaching digitally has, absolutely, made my teaching better. But staying focused is hard when there are so many apps to try and so many strategies to test. I am probably going to reread Essentialism this summer but, really, any one of the productivity books above is a great starting point to maximize your potential.
Question: What book(s) would you recommend to help upgrade our teaching? Let us know in the comments below or on social media.