Using these methods, teachers can better prioritize the tasks they tackle with limited preparation time or before and after students arrive. Carter said the technique also makes facing difficult tasks easier. There’s a big difference between looking at a stack of essays and committing to half an hour of grading, for example. “I’m looking at a big project and I’m dragging my heels,” she said. “But if I block off a time to do as much as I can for 30 minutes, I still feel productive. I still get that dopamine hit.”
Carter knows that teachers aren’t always in charge of their time, even during preparation periods. Students may need extra help, parents may call and staff shortages may mean they are helping out in another classroom. In his experience, though, the investment in being intentional about the parts of the day he can control has paid off. His increased productivity and heightened awareness of what he accomplished each day allowed him to skip school and Focus on parenting while staying at home. “When we can take a step back and better understand the systems and techniques and the permanence of time for ourselves, we can take that time back,” he said.
Find what works for you
On Saturday or Sunday nights, Carter works with a cart of colors and markers, considers the week ahead and designs her next journal pages. The ritual has become a self-care practice. “[M]y brain has a chance to calm down, my blood pressure drops, and I get to spend some time away from the screen,” she wrote.
His book and on Instagram, photos of Carter’s journals show the many creative banners, letters, and accents used throughout his pages. Artistry sometimes intimidates other teachers, she said, but she encourages them not to focus on perfection. He has developed his style over the years, drawing inspiration from bullet journal enthusiasts and sketchnote artists on social media. Also, the end product in his photos is not where he starts. “I’ll start with a very brief design and then come back on a Sunday night when I’m watching TV and add some flourishes, some doodles and drawings and stickers and stuff and make it look really cool,” he said.
Teachers can benefit from time management and mental distraction without that extra touch. “You can literally grab a spiral notebook and a pen off your back shelf and start and find something that works for you,” Carter said. “The more it speaks to you, the more likely you are to come back to it.”