Educators rarely have down time. Vacations are extremely important for us to refresh, to refocus, and to gain back our excitement for teaching. We can relax and at the same time keep our productive edge. This is because vacation is an excellent opportunity to recharge your productivity.
Vacations are great to focus on energy recovery. Let’s face it, during the school year, work is never-ending. Vacations are those brief moments where we can step away from our computers and lesson plans for a bit. We can take a moment to reflect on our progress and reimagine our future goals. Reaching greater productivity is not difficult. It is not about creating more time. Productivity is all about managing energy levels and focus.
The key to productivity is relaxed focused. When you are working in a state of stress, your productivity will suffer. Productivity is tied focus and focus to energy levels. The more burnt-out you are the less productive you become. I suggest you use your vacation time not just as “down time” but as a chance to run some tests on maximizing your energy levels. High energy and good focus leads to greater productivity every time.
Recharge Your Productivity By Relaxing!
Take a minute and think. How many days do you wake up tired? How often do you check your emails before breakfast? Or don’t even eat breakfast? How many of you work through lunch? Or try to eat and make copies at the same time?
Between grading, answering emails/calls, planning lessons, and going to meetings, there is never enough time in the day. The demands are never ending and overwhelming. Yet, there is a way to handle this gracefully. It can start during your time on vacation.
Want to know the secret to doing more and being more productive? Spend more time doing less things. I don’t mean to completely exit the land of productivity. Unless you are going for mental detox. Yeah, that is a thing.
I am talking about not looking at your email 20 times a day. You don’t need to completely unplug but you don’t have to do it all either. Make agreement with yourself about when, if any, work you will do over vacation. If you want to get caught up on grading papers, sending emails, or planning assignments, that is fine. Simply be intentional about it. Pick your “work” dates and set times to work on the material. Tell yourself that you will catch up on emails on Tuesday from 4-6pm. Schedule your work time like you would anything else. This will help you relax because you will know it will get done. At the same time, you will achieve greater productivity because during that work time, you’ll be able to focus on that one activity.
Prioritize Your To Do List The Night Before
You can stay productive by creating a to-do list like you would any work day. One trick is not to feel the need to rush through every single thing on your list. One way to recharge your productivity is to narrow your to-do list. Vacations are a great time to practice this.
Take a look at your various project’s list. Choose 1–3 tasks off your various lists and create a list of only 3 priority action items. To maximize your productivity, try organizing your lists at night.
I call the 1–3 priorities on my list the “Must Dos”. Call them what you want, but these are just the items that you really must accomplish for that day. All the rest of the items on your to-do list are just hopeful reminders. Doing this will keep you focused but not overwhelmed.
Focus less on thinking about all the work you need to get done. Instead take the time to list out the next steps of your various projects. This will help you reach greater clarity about what it is you should be doing next with your time. Greater clarity means less stress and higher productivity.
If you have to choose between doing 20 items on your to-do list over vacation, choose 5–8 instead. Use your vacation time to recover your strength and you will be more productive along the way.
Add Additional Sleep Time
One really easy way to recharge your productivity is to simply get more sleep. Often over vacation, it is easier to justify going to bed late and waking up later. If you want to stay productive over vacation don’t let the lack of a bell or meetings break your habits. Don’t stay up until midnight binge watching Netflix because you can. Good sleep habits are what give you extra mental energy during the day.
Sure, you can deal with work and family stress like a champion when you are in the trenches of the work week. But those long hours take their toll. All of us lose focus, clarity, and become increasingly unproductive the more burned out and tired we become. Sleep is the way you recharge your batteries. Don’t skimp over vacation.
Lay Off The Coffee
I know. I, myself, am a recovering coffee addict. At one point last year, I was drinking 4–6 cups per day. Not drinking coffee is probably not what you had in mind for vacation. There is no doubt that coffee and caffeine give you a temporary energy boost. In education, coffee might be the only thing getting you through the day.
Coffee does have the downside of raising your cortisol levels too [the stress hormone]. Your goal over vacation is to achieve more relaxed focus. To recharge your productivity. To order to regain clarity, go back to recharging your natural energy levels. Lay off the caffeine. It will be rough but by day 4 you should be back to natural energy levels.
Build New Habits – The Pomodoro Technique
Your ability to recharge your productivity depends a lot on your mental fatigue. Ever try grading a stack of papers at 9:00pm? Or doing important paperwork at the end of the day? It is nearly impossible to do the job well because your brain is just worn out.
One of the tricks to greater productivity is the technique known as the Pomodoro Technique. The idea of this technique is to work intensely but to also take frequent breaks.
How often? You take a break every 25 minutes.
Every 25 minutes you take a break from your work. Do something enjoyable for 5 minutes. Then go back and do another 25 minutes of focused work.
That is it. That is Pomodoro Technique. It is not hard to understand or to practice. Yet, difficult to master. You must force yourself to stop after 25 minutes. If you can start practicing over vacation when you are not stressed and can give it a good attempt. Once you got the hang of it, you could more easily transfer this technique to your regular work week after vacation.
That is it for this year’s list! I hope you found the tips helpful and have a relaxing vacation!
Check out last year’s list here: 15 Ways Teachers Should Spend Winter Vacation
Question: What are your tips, tricks, habits to spending your vacation productive and stress free?