There was an organizational strategy I read about a while ago (I cannot remember where) that specifically helped organize the tasks on your to-do list based on the energy you need to complete it. You listed all the things you have to do in a day and classified each task on its energy consumption- does it give you energy, is it energy neutral, or does is zap your energy? Then the goal is plan your tasks in a way that makes sense for the energy it needs. If you are not a morning person, like me, plan on doing some of the energizing tasks then. Pair an energy draining task with an energy giving task to help balance your day out. String the energy neutral tasks together so you can knock them out during your prep. You get the idea.
I thought it was a good strategy at first, until I sat down with my list of daily tasks and realized the majority of them drain my energy. Especially during COVID, the energy required of me to do basic things at my job has left me feeling permanently exhausted when I come home. Parent emails, grading, cleaning desks, and never ending spreadsheets all fell into the draining column. Looking at this strategy was disheartening because it was difficult to identify anything I have to do during my day that gives me energy anymore.
My friend teaches a college class, an education course for future teachers, and invited me to come and speak on a panel for high school week. It was three of my colleagues, over 100 freshman education majors, and a burst of energy I haven’t had in a year. I left that Zoom meeting and felt refreshed and excited about my job again.
It was energizing to talk about what my classroom used to feel like, the silly things I used to do, the activities I designed to engage my students. It was also the first time I got to interact with my colleagues outside of school since my department’s Zoom trivia night at Christmas. We were being goofy, cracking jokes, and bragging about each other’s accomplishments.
That night made me realize the things that are not on my to-do list any more are the things that usually bring me energy: interacting with my students and my colleagues. It is the people that make my excited about my job, and this year, teaching online and now teaching concurrently, I am removed from those people. Even the students who are in-person are masked and sitting as far apart as I can possibly put them.
The to-do list is never ending, but I am hoping next year some things will return that I am more excited to check off it. Next year, I am hopeful to get back the excitement of my classroom and excited to reconnect with my colleagues again. As you think about the tasks on your to-do list, what brings you energy?
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