Opinion
Teaching Profession Opinion

Making a List, Checking It Twice

By Starr Sackstein — July 15, 2019 3 min read
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No, I’m not checking to see who has been naughty or nice or conspiring with someone else who is. Instead, I’m developing a structure for all the things I need to accomplish in order to make use of my new unstructured schedule.

As a new leader, I had to rethink my time, no longer in terms of bells and periods but in terms of projects, meetings, and other obligations. Each day was as I planned it, of course, unless something more pressing came up that took precedence.

At first, this shift was a challenge for me. As a classroom teacher, you schedule everything down to bathroom breaks and lunch around the bell schedule, and even summers to some degree were planned around writing schedules. Now, as a consultant and speaker, my time is divided differently.

Now, I’m doing a lot of different things for different projects, and my time has to be planned since there isn’t always a specific place to be. My Google calendar has become invaluable as I have started setting alarms so I don’t forget to do anything. That is another challenge with this new space. There aren’t necessarily routines that emerge in one space so much in terms of waking up, going to a location, doing an assigned job, and then coming home.

Instead, I wake up usual time, share coffee and some news with my husband. He goes off to work, and I have to plan my day. I check my calendar to see if there are any meetings, phone calls, and/or travel that needs to be done, and then I consider my headspace.

Staying healthy inside of this new paradigm is also important. Scheduling in exercise and meals as well as needed breaks after being on my computer for extended periods of time. Whether I’m writing, communicating via email (which is more than ever), and/or preparing for an upcoming event (speaking engagement, workshop, webinar), there is always something to be done.

For a person like me, a lunatic that may border on workaholism, planning downtime is as important as planning when to do the work and how much work to do.

So here are some of the systems I’m trying out until I figure out a routine I plan to stick with:


  • Wake up at 4:30 or around that time so I can spend time with my husband
  • Check in on social media while he prepares to leave
  • Check the calendar for the day and/or week
  • Make a manageable list of things to be done, adding a few extras that I may or may not get to
  • Determine when I will exercise and eat and for how much time (need to schedule eating around the exercise so I don’t make myself sick)
  • Plan for some personal time to connect with friends and family
  • Plan breaks between work to ensure burnout doesn’t happen
  • Connect with other people on my team to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything
  • Check email throughout the day to make sure there aren’t any fires that need to be put out
  • Make time to spend with my son provided he wants to spend time with me (if he decides he wants to spend time with me and I have a flexible day, he jumps the priority list always)
  • Take some meditative walking time and/or play with the cat to refocus
  • Get back to work until dinner time
  • Stop work for good unless there is an evening chat and allow for personal time to be present with the family

I love that idea that no two days in a row will ever really be identical anymore. That is exciting but also terrifying after having such a routine job even with all of the things that can change in a day.

So I will continue to make my to-do lists and check them compulsively until I find my flow. On some level, I know that there will be harmony to be found in this new role; I just need to figure out the notes.

Is routine important to you? How do you create a schedule where there isn’t necessarily one? Please share

Photo by Starr Sackstein

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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