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108. MINDSET: How Batch Planning is Giving Me 1 Day Off Each Week

by Lindsay Lyons
March 28th 2023
In today's solo episode, Lindsay is sharing a mindset shift related to batch planning and scheduling. Tune in to learn... More
I'm educational justice coach Lindsay Lyons. And here on the time for Teacher podcast, we learn how to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice design curricula grounded in student voice and build capacity for shared leadership. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach. I'm striving to live a life full of learning, running, baking, traveling, and parenting because we can be rockstar educators and be full human beings. If you're a principal, assistant superintendent, curriculum director, instructional coach or teacher who enjoys nerdy out about co creating curriculum with students. I made this show for you. Here we go. Welcome to episode one oh eight. At the time for Teacher Ship podcast. Today we're talking about mindset and I'm very excited because the mindset shift we're talking about today has to do with scheduling and batch planning, which are some of my favorite topics that are not in the immediate get educational space, they apply to anyone. So if you have a friend that is not an educator, please feel free to share this. But I am so excited because I think educators and leaders specifically in education really struggle with being able to focus on the things that matter.

I'm gonna help you do that today. Get excited. All right. In this episode, we are talking about batch planning and how to basically create a schedule that enables you to do the things that are important, the things that help you feel good about your job to do the things that you got into this work for and not be sidetracked and sidelined by all of these emails that are asking you to do all this paperwork and call this parent and all the things that maybe are things that come up immediately that maybe you didn't plan for and then sometimes are important, sometimes are not. So how do we figure that out is a, is a component for sure. But how do we ultimately make sure that we are doing the high leverage instructional leadership or curricular leadership stuff that's going to give us the biggest kind of bang for our backyard. So, batch planning first, I'm gonna define it. I'm gonna tell you why I love it. I'm gonna tell you how it's useful for me and how it can be useful for you. So batch planning is doing the work that you have around a specific task, maybe a task that you have to repeat daily or weekly in one kind of go in one multi hour chunk of time.

So why would we do something like this? It allows us to spend more time on the important things because you're defining what the important things are, you are making time for them. You are doing the work faster. So you're actually able to do the work faster when you are in the zone in the state of flow. A couple of weeks ago, we talked about this in episode one oh six, we were talking about intensives for workshops. Great. So listen to that. If you, if you go back and check it out, you'll kind of hear some of the same themes coming up. But that cost of task switching, it loses so much time for you. So you can actually gain hours of your week back. I've gained an entire day each week back by just tinkering with what can I batch and what are the systems of kind of these repeated tasks that I find myself doing every week? I'm doing the same kind of tasks. I'm creating something new each week for each task, but I am doing kind of the same process and maybe it takes me only 30 minutes. But if I were to batch all of those weekly tasks in one fell swoop, it would take me less than two hours versus 30 minutes times four weeks because I'm in the zone.

The process is much more fluid. I'm able to get them done faster. So I ultimately save 30 minutes an hour with just one task being batched, right? Something like that. So there's a ton of value here. We do things faster. We get to do the important things that we otherwise wouldn't have time for. We often spend a lot of time on like, you know, putting out fires or playing calendar. Jenga with our super busy schedules. We often feel pretty bad that we don't get to the things that are important to us. And then ultimately, what happens is we have less energy and hope and optimism and, and fun and enjoyment, right. For ourselves, our colleagues, our students, our families, so we're not showing up the way that we want to when we don't get that stuff done. And we're kind of just focused on this huge to do list, that's just never ending. And we never feel like we're making progress on it because every day we add more than we take off, right? Batch planning allows us to get the important things done, get them done faster and also requires a sense of that priority matrix of what truly is most important and what can go off of my schedule, right.

We're also going to take a different approach to the sense of a to do list and think about it more as a calendar. So I'm gonna talk to you a little bit about how we do all of this. Here's what I was adjust, start with a completely clean blank schedule. Nothing on it. It is way easier to add the important things to your calendar than to take things off of your calendar. So you just don't put some things on, right? When you are thinking with a clean plate, a clean calendar, nothing on it often. We forget some things, but I would challenge you to think about why are you forgetting them? Maybe they are not that important. They are not high leverage, they're not getting you the big wins. Maybe they don't deserve to be on your calendar. And of course, in every position we have someone probably above us or laterally from us that tells us we need to be at these meetings, even if they don't feel super valuable or high leverage. I understand that. I think it's important to, you know, do the thing that keeps you in the job. So I want to balance that or I wanna invite you to balance that with what actually is highest leverage.

And if these meetings that you're forced to attend or these tasks, you're forced to kind of be pulled to do if they're not actually moving the needle for student learning for student engagement, say that, say that to someone, say that to the boss that's telling you you need to do this thing, right? Can we make this meeting more valuable if we need to be there? Can we measure its impact on students and their learning? Can we eliminate it or at least make it shorter? Can it be turned into an email? Right? There are so many things that we can do to just bring up that point and have that guiding light or something, right? Like the student learning as a metric for whether this was a valuable use of our time, have that on everyone's radar. So I love how Neil Williams who is a, a coach on, on this topic of time, she loves talking about time she talks about and I will link to this episode in the show notes and the the blog post um on the website. But she said if I only had this much time, what would I do or prioritize? Right? Like that's a question she asks herself and she coaches her clients to ask themselves.

I think that's really important. And that's how I really started the, the lesson planning strategy, the 50 40 10 planning and the way that I plan lessons in 30 minutes or less as a teacher was because I said, ok, I only have this much time. Let me backwards plan from that constrained number because I, I was like, you know what I'm working way too many hours outside of teaching. If I only have this much time, this is my planning time each week. What would that look like? Oh, that means I have to plan each lesson in 20 to 30 minutes each. Like that's the maximum amount I get to spend on planning one lesson. Ok. So then I designed a process for that and I had this, you know, realization that when I set a timer what would happen and this is actually backed up by science, which is super fascinating. I was just learning about this that when people do tasks like this and they set a timer for themselves. So I'm, I'm lesson planning. I set a timer for 30 minutes. I'm gonna get most of my lesson planning done actually in the last 10 minutes when I see that timer hit 10 minutes and I say, oh my gosh, I really need to, you know, buckle down and do this thing. That is what happens with people though.

If the, the more time that they have, they don't actually do the thing in the same way as the last 10 minutes or, or the last few minutes. When we get serious about constraining our time, we're able to be highly effective because our brains just go to like get this done mode, which ultimately is kind of for me anyways, a priorities thing. So I'm like, ok, well, worst case scenario I, you know, I have a one text for my class and I have one key question they're going to grapple with and I'm gonna share the text. I'm gonna share the question and I have a protocol that I usually use. So we'll just pull that because I already have a template and that is how I ended up creating all of the stuff that I created for basically every lesson for the last several years of teaching. And then created a whole unit design process. That is now a massive part of my organization and my coaching career. It was from constraining my time and working backwards from there to say, well, what is kind of like the the most high leverage thing, most impactful thing I could be doing if I was even less than planning in 10 minutes, right?

Which ultimately, as I was saying is what was happening 10 minutes left on the timer. OK, let's do this thing. Boom, boom, boom. I picked a resource, picked a question. I picked a protocol. Let's do this. So when we constrain our time, magical things happen, we often do things at the last 10 minutes, all of this stuff is really interesting to me with that in mind. So let's think about the clean schedule and we're just adding the most important and at the same time, we are not enabling ourselves to go past our regularly scheduled school day. So this idea of forced constraints that Neil William talks about. If I only have this much time, let's say you only have that much time, you have to be out of the building when the bell rings. That also models for your teachers that they also have to leave. They also should have families and free time and all of the things they get to spend their time there too and they see you doing it, they're more likely to do it themselves. So start with the clean schedule, we're gonna add what's most important in just a moment. So what's most important? That's the next step, determine the big tasks that you wanna batch. So for you, I like using the 50-40-10 plan planning approach for teachers.

I also like using it for leaders, figure out what that is for you. What are kind of like the three big tasks or maybe there's five, right. Well, however many tasks there are, I wouldn't go past five for sure. But think about what is the big thing you want to do each week. I like thinking in chunks of weeks because I think it makes it more manageable and you can repeat each week's format the following week. So 50 40 10 might look like I want to do 50% of like I want uh you know, face to face teacher time. Uh 40% of my time, I am learning how to do my job better and consuming information and sharing it with people and and doing kind of like the learning piece of my job and 10%. I am really being strategic about the professional learning that my teachers get. So I might be building out a like we talked about in two episodes ago, like I might be building out an online course for teachers to use a particular process for coaching intensives or in P L C time, right? I am creating those structures and practices and P D content perhaps for people. So that's something, for example, I might batch first, I might say I need two hours each week to be able to create the structures, the practices, refine them um design or help core with a teacher the next P D that's happening, something like that, right?

I might also want some time to uh write up or video record or um figure out how to streamline my coaching feedback, right? How am I going to give feedback and you know, literally actually giving the feedback to the teachers whose classes I'm in, I might also want a a batch of time where I'm actually not creating something on a computer for example, but I am in classrooms. So I have heard, you know, 55%, 60%, I've heard different percentages of what this should be for instructional leaders, but you definitely want a huge chunk of your time in classrooms to be able to see what's going on so that you can provide had that coaching and support. That is a perfect task to batch very different as I said from something you're creating on your computer, but you have that time in your calendar, it is something that you're only doing it, then you're repeating it each week. And you're saying, don't interrupt me during this time, right? Like I am doing this thing, I'm not on my phone, checking emails. I am not dealing with discipline issues at this time I am being in in functional leader.

I'm seeing what's going on. I am trying to figure out how I can help and connect people with those resources that during my professional learning time I found right now I can send them to this teacher because they're working on this or they need support in this area. So start with a clean schedule, determine the big tasks to batch and then we're gonna put those tasks on the calendar. I would suggest scheduling one batching task a day because life happens, we have meetings, we do get pulled to things. We can, we can let that happen. For me. The batching tasks in the morning make the most sense because I can then check the emails or have the meetings or do the things that kind of crop up during the day in the afternoon, early on, particularly if you start your day very early. Maybe the rest of the world hasn't like fully woken up to send that email to ask you to do that thing yet, right? You can have a little more peace. There hasn't been, you know, six uh discipline issues that you need to attend to, right? You can kind of focus in some people's energy is more creative in the afternoon. And if that's you, that's totally fine. But I would find a block of at least I would say 90 minutes to two hours or as much as feels doable, I think you really can be honest with yourself.

Push yourself a little bit. You don't want to be secluded in your office all the time, for sure. You want to be seen in and out in there. But you want to make sure that the time that you are in your office, you are super productive. So again, can you find 90 minutes each morning or each day? Find a time where it's like I'm doing this thing, I really can't be interrupted. I need to do this because this is this very important creative task that is important to me. Right. And again, it doesn't have to be when you batch, it doesn't have to be in your office. The batching could also be going to visit the teachers, right? Being in the classrooms. But we're putting it on the calendar and we don't schedule over it. So if something comes up, we're gonna pick a different time to schedule it. Those batched blocks again, only 90 minutes a day, two hours a day, we're not gonna schedule there as long as we can help it. Of course, in an emergency situation. Sure. But we have to be really honest with ourselves about what an emergency situation is as well. Right. Ok. Now, I also at the same time, want you to think about, I am batching for 90 minutes to two hours each day and I am making sure that I also schedule in my breaks, my lunch, my life and wellness pieces, you can certainly overlap things.

Like, for example, if you need to stretch your legs and take a walk because you have been sitting in classrooms for a while, stretch your legs and take a walk, right. Walk around the school, you could do something else at the same time if you're observing, like, what is the hallway culture? What does it look like when people, students are talking to adults? Like are people smiling. You can do things that are instructional leadership and you know, cultural leadership at the same time as you're walking, right? Those are something that you can kind of overlap. But then you also have things like just maybe five minutes of quiet reflection or contemplation where no one's asking you to do something, no one is talking at you. You do not need to be anywhere, right? And you might just walk five minutes in the morning, five minutes in the afternoon, but you want to schedule these breaks in. I also want you to schedule your lunch. Now again, you can overlap here. If you're a person who really wants to build connections and relationships with people, you can eat lunch with students, you can eat lunch with teachers, you can also eat lunch on your own, right?

You can eat lunch however you want, but I want you to schedule it in. So you don't forget to eat. I am a person who will forget to eat if I do not schedule, I don't check in very often with my body. I need to get better at that, but we need to eat right. We are people that need to eat so that we can be healthy and show up better for our colleagues, our families ourselves. So clean schedule is how we start. We determine the big tasks to batch. We schedule one at most two batching tasks a day. I think these blocks should be 90 minutes to two hours. We schedule our breaks and our life and wellness pieces. We schedule our lunch. And the final step is any new tasks that come in once we have these components scheduled is that we are going to put it on our calendar. They don't go on a to do list, they don't stay in our brain and we struggle to remember them and it takes up energy and space in our, in our brain. We don't just write it on a list and then continue to add to that list because our to do list are ever growing. We put it on the calendar. So any, any time I have to do something or I have an idea for what I want to create, it goes on my calendar. So it might go if, if I have, for example, I have some batching blocks that are um it's not really batching actually.

That's probably not true. But I, I have some set aside creative blocks each week that are just for creation, they are to work on something that is exciting and new. And I want to like write a bunch of stuff down or, or do this new project, it leaves room for inspiration and creativity. And if I have an idea for that, I am going to put it into the next available block. So let's say two weeks from now, I have a Tuesday morning that has an open space where I have blocked for creative work. I'm going to write that idea that I have in my brain of something to do in there. I can always shuffle it down later. I can always say something else came up. It's more important. I'm gonna work on that, but I'm going to put it on my calendar versus putting it in my phone's notes app, which I used to do and still sometimes do and then I'm never going to find it again. Right? I wanna put it on my calendar so that I remember to do it. And also to say this is a priority. I'm I'm doing this. I have this thing on my, on my mind. If it's in my calendar, it's important. If I've decided not to put it in my calendar, I'm either delegating it or decided it's not important enough to do.

And if it is someone else's task that they're requesting of us, they, they will write back if it's urgent, right? And we can just work on it then. But for now it is not so any task that come in, put it on your calendar. If it's a meeting, I think it's pretty obvious we put it on our calendar. Other things, I don't think we always do. If it's paperwork, schedule time, it's gonna take 30 minutes, we're gonna put that in there. Right. So, that's kind of a bonus tip that I, that I would share. Now, if you go to Lindsay balis dot com slash blog slash one oh eight, I have a free resource for you. It's a batch schedule template. I actually created it during the initial surge of COVID in 2020 for teachers who were working from home and trying to figure out their schedules because often teachers had very flexible schedules and they had to like figure out how do I do this. So I was encouraged people to use batching there. And I actually have an example of a batched schedule for a teacher working from home in 2020. Feel free to use that as inspiration. Your schedule is going to look different, but I think the same premises apply and you have that clean schedule in batched chunks that you can just go in and be able to do.

So. For example, here's how I have been using this in my, my business lately. So as a coach, I have weekly consistent tasks that I used to do each week as they needed to be done. For example, I would email my email list, right? So that's something I sent out every Thursday at eight PM. I would do that either Thursday afternoon or Wednesday afternoon and I would schedule it for Thursdays. I also record this podcast, right? I release one episode a week. I also do coaching calls. I also do um some blog writing. I also do some website redesign and some creative creative tasks. As I said earlier, where I was just for the last month, all my creative tasks were about redesigning curriculum, boot camp as of this recording, right? So those are the things that I kind of put into my batching schedule. So now things that I used to do each week, I do each Monday or Wednesday morning. So every Monday now, for example, has a task that I'm kind of doing things for the week.

Oh, the other thing is, is youtube, I just started a youtube channel as of this recording a couple months ago. I now record all four youtube videos for the week, sorry for the month on one Monday. So I record them all the same day. I just have a couple different shirts and I swap them out and then it's done for the month. Same with the podcast. I try to record all of the episodes on one day, right? So I referenced in this episode episode one oh six, I just recorded that like an hour ago Right. So this is, is fresh on my mind, I'm able to link the episodes together better. I'm able to get this, uh, you know, I have all the podcast recording stuff set up already. I don't have to spend five minutes putting it up and then taking it off. Right. We would add 10 minutes to each podcast recording if I did that separate 30 minute recording every single week. Now, I only have five minutes at the beginning of this like three hour, four hour chunk of time where I'm recording all of the podcast episodes for this month. And I only have five minutes at the beginning and then to kind of set up, right? It just saves like 20 minutes, right? And that's small, but it happens each week, right? It happens each time I batch a task.

So another thing you can do another tip that I will share with you think of this episode is getting along. Now, here's how you can help teachers do this, right? You can break down the planning process. So if they're lesson planning, think about the tasks that are part of their lesson planning process. Ask them, you don't even have to tell them. You say, what are the things you're doing? Ok. For example, uh a teacher might say, well, I, you know, figure out what I need to teach, right? I'm kind of like backwards planning from the project or from the Summit of Assessment. This is the thing I need to teach next and then I pick a protocol or like lesson activity and then I, you know, go search for a video on youtube or a text from and, and then I kind of put it all together and I do the slides. So what I would suggest is breaking those down and say, OK, so first thing you're gonna do is you're going to outline on a calendar. what is the one thing you're teaching for this particular class? Every day, calendar out the month? That's one task, right? That's something you might do Monday. On Tuesday, what you're gonna do is you're going to name the protocols you're gonna do for each of those days in the next month, right? Or the next few day? Ok? On Wednesday, what you're gonna do is you're gonna take one week of lessons, you already know what you're teaching in terms of content, you know what you're teaching in terms of the protocol, go ahead and find the resources, you have five resources to find, you just find one per lesson, right?

And, and so you're kind of breaking it down into pieces because when we plan one lesson, when teachers plan one lesson and do all the things, they're all separate tasks and we're having switching costs. So if we have to remember what the Summit of assessment is every single day, we go to plan and then figure out what we're talking about the next lesson, it's going to take way longer for us to determine that because we're doing it on separate days than to just sit down for 20 minutes and say, ok, I'm familiar with the Summit of Assessment. It's top of mind, boom, boo, boom, boo boom. This is the next 20 days like just a quick word or phrase that tells me how I'm going to kind of build up throughout the unit, all of the skills. So students are able to do the summit of assessment. So give teachers as much planning time as possible. I think we're already aware that that's really important, make the most of the team time using the same approach. Once we have that time for teachers to work as much as they can make sure that planning process is broken down and they're batching the tasks as much as possible and you could coach them to do this by also offering how you have been experimenting with this on your own.

OK. That was a long one. So I mentioned the link Lindsay by clients dot com slash blog slash one oh eight for that batch schedule template. It's a Google doc you can edit, I'm also going to link in here um in the the blog post for this episode, a three page planner preview for leaders. So this is adapted from my work, less teach, more planner for teachers because I think that gives you a sense of the 50 40 10 planning approach and the different strategies that you can use that are kind of next level after you listen to this episode and you want to kind of go a little bit deeper on time audits and the batch planning and all of that. So you can get that in the blog post as well. All right, everybody. I will talk to you again next week. If you're leaving this episode wanting more, you're going to love my life, coaching intensive curriculum, boot camp. I help one department or grade team create feminist, anti racist curricula that challenges affirms and inspires all students. We weave current events into course content and amplify student voices which skyrockets engagement and academic achievement. It energizes educators feeling burns out and it's just two days.

Plus you can reuse the same process any time you create a new unit which saves time and money. If you can't wait to bring this to your staff, I'm inviting you to sign up for a 20 minute call with me. Grab a spot on my calendar at w W w dot Lindsay beth lions dot com slash contact. Until next time leaders continue to think. Big act brave and be your best self. This podcast is a proud member of the Teach Better podcast network. Better today, better tomorrow and the podcast to get you there, explore more podcasts at teach better dot com slash podcasts and we'll see you at the next episode

108. MINDSET: How Batch Planning is Giving Me 1 Day Off Each Week
108. MINDSET: How Batch Planning is Giving Me 1 Day Off Each Week
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