10 strategies to remember when the work piles up

sex ed to doI was talking with a colleague yesterday who was pretty overwhelmed with work. There was more training to write than she could possibly write before the training happened. This happens to all of us at one time or another, and as I have a few deadlines I’m working on myself, I thought it might be a salient time to write out a few ideas on how to handle things when there’s just too much to do.

Some of these ideas are mine, some of them I’ve mined from the great wide Interwebs. (I’ve noted those with links to the original source. The links are certainly worth clicking on – each of them has far more information on managing yourself and deadlines.)

  1. Google is your friend, my friend! There are loads of quick lesson plan ideas for substitute teachers that can jog your creativity and expand your standard go-to lessons. Here’s a sample from one page: Puzzles, pictionary, brick brainstorm, story starters, create a dictionary, getting to know you, lead a group discussion, magic tricks, riddles, and create a rebus. (Example: http://teaching.monster.com/benefits/articles/4281-10-quick-lesson-ideas-for-substitute-teachers)
  2. Breathe. It may sound trite, but it’s not. Stress build up, feeling overwhelmed, and not breathing deeply are circular issues. Keep part of your mind focused on your breathing while you work. It will quiet the anxious part of your brain and let you be more focused.
  3. Install the StayFocused app on your browser so that the amount of time you can waste online (aka stalking on Facebook) is limited. (Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/erinlarosa/17-genius-ways-to-be-more-productive#.pbRDR9ao5)
  4. Think of each task or project as an unfamiliar one. The familiarity bias says when we’re more familiar with the early steps of a project, we’re more likely to delay starting it and, perhaps, underestimate how much time is needed to complete it. So think of each task as a new, unfamiliar one to make sure you’re thinking of your given time appropriately. (Source: http://lifehacker.com/5972811/how-can-i-make-deadlines-less-stressful)
  5. Draw on ideas from your students and trainees! There are strong pedagogical reasons to include your students in your lesson planning process. Inviting them into the brainstorming process for lesson topics, scenarios on certain topics, and treating them as the authority on what they need to know can yield robust and sometimes unexpected results.
  6. Set a timer for a certain amount of time; my writing requires longer than the suggested 25 minutes but generally, I break after 45 minutes. (Source: http://www.linwilder.com/5-tips-managing-deadlines/)
  7. When you’re writing lesson plans, either for students or as a trainer, don’t hesitate to borrow liberally from other people. We’re all working together to increase high quality sexuality education. Just be sure to give credit where it’s due.
  8. Change your story. Your perspective of stressful office events is typically a subjective interpretation of the facts, often seen through the filter of your own self-doubt, says Melnick. However, if you can step back and take a more objective view, you’ll be more effective and less likely to take things personally. (Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2013/03/20/12-ways-to-eliminate-stress-at-work/)
  9. Remember that if not everything gets done, not everything is going to get done. Sometimes that will ultimately be fine, sometimes it might be a disaster. But the result is the same whether you’ve fretted or not. In fact, you’ll probably get less done if you’re working. So just accept that some parts of your deadline may be unfinished. Choose the least important parts to do last. Continue onward through the duckweed. Breathing.
  10. Phone a friend. Call on that person who you know will be able to commiserate with you, pick you up, dust you off, and set you back on your productive feet. If you don’t have a friend, family member, or colleague who fits that role for you, register for the next National Sex Ed Conference immediately! We’ll find them for you!