Oh, the joy of Saturday. Sleeping in, college football and knowing you have another day before you go back to work, makes Saturday the favorite day of the week for most teachers. And yet, how many of us have gotten to Sunday evening and wondered where the weekend went? I for one have wasted many a Saturday. I have recently developed a plan that will help you feel as if you’re Saturday was not wasted. Not only that, it will help propel you into Sunday like you never have before.
Schedule 2 “Deep Work” Blocks (just 20 minutes each)
Cal Newport defines deep work as, “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.” Why would I suggest you put yourself through something that sounds so rigorous on a Saturday? Uhhh, because it works and it takes less than an hour.
I am recommending that you schedule two 20-minute deep work blocks on Saturday. They might be first thing in the morning. They could be in the afternoon. Or you could spread them out—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. When you schedule them is not important—that you schedule them is.
The first deep work block should be a brain dump. Many folks, the most prominent being David Allen, have written about the importance of getting what is in our heads, out of our heads and down on paper. So, for 15-minutes, write down everything teacher-related that is on your mind. Don’t stop. Don’t think. Don’t analyze. Just write. The purpose of this exercise is to free up space in your head. Once you put something down on paper, you know where it is and you no longer have to worry about remembering it.
You will need this list during your 2nd deep work block.
Once you hit the 15-minute mark, stop. Next, for 5 minutes take a look at the list and circle 3-5 items that you would like to tackle on Sunday. They don’t need to be projects or tasks that you finish, just things you want to spend some time moving forward the next day.
During your next deep work block of the day, you will plan action steps for the items you circled. Traditionally when we make lists, we simply put stuff down on paper. And that’s okay. But you can do better in just a short amount of time because during this next 20-minute block you are going to put an action step next to each of the items you circled. In other words, you are going to be more specific about exactly what it is you are going to do to move the project, task or job further.
- Grade essays => score 3rd period’s essays for punctuation and word usage
- Plan reading center => make a list of supplies needed to create suffix center
- Write fraction lesson plan => brainstorm possible hooks for adding fractions with unlike denominators
- Reread 1st act of Hamlet => Read 1st act of Hamlet and generate a list of possible questions students may have
Remember, you are only writing the specific action steps. Tomorrow, Sunday, you will begin to work on putting these actions into place.
There you have it. You just spent 40-minutes total, broken into two 20-minute blocks, and you are ready for the next day. In less than an hour, you probably accomplished more than you often do in several hours. Your day wasn’t disrupted and you can rest easy knowing that you are ready for Sunday.
Dedicate a Portion Of Your Day to Loved Ones
School weeks can be busy and because of the time we spend at school, we have less time than we’d like to spend with loved ones. It becomes a balancing act that often leaves us feeling guilty by the time Sunday evening rolls around. We look back on the weekend and we realize that we did not really spend any quality time with the people that matter most to us—our significant others, our children, our friends, our parents and yes our pets.
This is why it is necessary that you dedicate and plan a portion of your day to spending it with the people that matter most. As I mentioned above, the weekend has a way of getting away from us. How is this possible? I don’t know. But it happens and before we know it, it’s Sunday night and we wish we had just one more day.
Right about now, some of you might be thinking, Jon I spend my entire weekends with my loved ones, this isn’t a worry for me. And to that I say, awesome. I realize that we all have different schedules and different priorities and responsibilities on the weekend. I get it. I just know that, I often plan on spending most, if not all, of my weekend with my family. But somehow it gets away from me. A football game here, a nap there, mowing the lawn, etc. Before you know it, it’s Sunday night and you haven’t really spent any quality time with the ones that matter most to you.
Here’s the thing. You don’t need to plan elaborate activities and hours-long events for it to be considered quality time. Sometimes it may be as simple as going for a walk with you wife, dining at Panera with your daughter or playing a few video games with your son. Maybe your dog has been pent up all week just waiting to spend some time with you. Take her for a long walk on Saturday and maybe even Sunday. Or maybe, as KJ Dell Antonia suggests, you all just turn into jello in the same room—on your devices. That’s okay and it doesn’t make you a bad parent.
I say all of this because I don’t want you to get to Sunday and realize that there are tasks that you must complete and that you have no time left for your loved ones. Because then the guilt creeps in, you feel bad and it effects your mood and your whole evening.
By strategically planning to spend time with your loved ones on Saturday you have already eliminated the possibility for Sunday guilt. By no means am I saying that if you spend time with your family on Saturday you ignore them on Sunday. Not at all. Sundays are awesome. But this way, by planning this quality time on Saturday, you prevent feeling the Sunday guilt that has a way of creeping up on us all.
Take Time For You
Yes, we have jobs and yes, we have families and yes, we have obligations and responsibilities, but …
We must take time for ourselves. Like the airline stewardess cautions us before we take off and like Mandy Froehlich and I say each week on Teachers Aid, you must put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. I know, it often goes against the way we are wired. We are wired to serve and to take of those around us. But in order to do so, we must take care of ourselves.
And Saturday is one of the best days to take a little, or a lot, of time for yourself. It is important that you set aside a large block of time for yourself on this day. What you do during that block of time is obviously up to you. Maybe you go for a long run. Maybe you find a quiet place to read that book you’ve been wanting to delve into. Or maybe you notice that Can’t Buy Me Love, Grease 2 or Breakin is on and you just have to watch them for the 31st time. Give yourself permission to do this. (BTW, I know I’m not the only one who loves these oldies but goodies).
Remember, you have already scheduled your two deep work blocks for the day so you don’t have to worry about school. This time is for you to forget about everything and just have fun, oftentimes mindless fun. Maybe you spend a few hours working on something that you are passion about that has nothing to do with school. Something that feeds your soul. Because while education is what we do, it is not who we are.
We are writers and dancers and preachers and runners and artists and activists and many many other things besides teachers. Take time Saturday to feed your soul. It is not selfish and you are not a bad husband or wife or parent for taking and needing this time to yourself. The people in your life that matter to you, need you to take this time.
They need you at your best and they want you to be happy and fulfilled. So, pack your headphones, your computer and your journal and settle in at your local coffee shop for a few hours. Or, go for that long bike ride in the country and make sure you stop periodically to take photos and take it in nature.
Remember this is your fuel. This is what is going to keep you going for the rest of the week. This is what keeps your soul alive. This is what you need.
No guilt allowed.
Tomorrow is Sunday
Unlike past Sundays, you are prepared. You have generated a list of specific action steps. In other words, you won’t have to waste any time wondering where to start because you already know. I’m sure you’ll spend time with loved ones, but it won’t weigh on your mind as much as before because you spent quality time with them on Saturday. Finally, you gave yourself permission to spend time on something for you on Saturday. Hopefully, you can find some you time Sunday as well, but if you can’t, you won’t be frustrated because you got to spend some time Saturday feeding your soul.
Aren’t Saturdays the best?
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Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success in A Distracted World by Cal Newport
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