How to Time Block Your Week: A Productive Instructional Coach Habit!

Every Sunday afternoon, I figure out in advance everything that I need to do for the week ahead and create a time blocked plan to work from. Instead of trying to be generally productive or working off a random task list, I thoughtfully organize my work according to what must be done this week, divide my open hours into blocks, and assign specific work to the blocks. This kind of planning takes some time up front (usually sixty to ninety minutes for me), but it returns much greater productivity for the week that follows.

To give you a better idea of what this looks like, I’ll walk you through how I created a recent time blocked weekly plan.

Everything that you need to do in the coming week, including all of the random thoughts and ideas floating around in your head, must be written down and captured. Go through your email (print, if needed to pull out actions), coaching notes, google docs, etc. Also look back at your past week….what needs to be carried over to the coming week? Look ahead…what is coming up that you need to get started on this week? What coaching communication needs to be sent out or completed such as confirming coaching debriefs and updating coaching logs. The more thoroughly you CAPTURE all of these items, the fewer open loops you will have and in turn the less stress you will feel.

Once you’ve thoroughly captured all of your to-dos, you can then start to organize. Sort everything into like groups, and for each task add an estimate for how long you think that task (or group of tasks) will take. This will give you a realistic picture of whether or not everything will “fit” into your coming week. And remember, you’re only focusing on what MUST get done this week. Everything else will need to wait.

Cal Newport (love him!) talks about the importance of controlling your time through daily and weekly plans. I use Google Calendar for all of my time specific meetings and appointments, but for my weekly time blocked plan, I ALWAYS write it out in my Time & ToDo Planner. Pen to paper in this step REALLY helps me visualize all the different parts and pieces of my week.

Once you’ve organized all of your to-dos for the week and assigned time estimates, you can begin to block out chunks of time throughout the week to complete your tasks. Below, I’ll give a further explanation of my common time blocks.

Here’s an overview of my different time blocks for this week:

I begin my weekly plan by time blocking anything on my Google Calendar. I use a green pen and a thicker line to indicate these blocks. With these times blocked off, I can now see what open hours I have to work with for the rest of my plan.

I group all of my email and smaller administrative tasks into a daily morning block, so I can “batch task” these items. I will also block out two additional email blocks each day, so that I’m not working from my inbox all day. This isn’t easy, but I’m getting better.

For projects and deep work, I think about my coachees, grade level planning, PD, or anything else currently on my plate. Right now that includes:

  • 5 coachees
  • 5th grade
  • Friday PD
  • CMAS prep

I’ll then figure out what needs to be done for each of the project categories and I’ll block off time accordingly in my weekly plan.

Don’t forget to schedule a lunch break for yourself! My lunch isn’t always at the same time every day, and depending on meetings/coaching, I might not get a lunch break, if I don’t plan it. I like taking 30 minutes to eat some lunch and take a quick walk outside, so I’ll time block it!

The Daily Shutdown Ritual is another tip I picked up from Cal Newport. This is an important piece of his time blocking strategy, and I’ve been working on incorporating it into my own. The idea is that once your daily shutdown is “complete” you can move into the rest of your afternoon or evening free of any worries or stress about what you didn’t get done or what you need to do tomorrow. 

I also like to time block and plan personal things like exercise and dinner. Additionally, I’ve been working on reading more, so that is something reflected in this weekly plan.

With a time blocked weekly plan, you’ll head into your week feeling confident and in control. 

Yes, unexpected things will come up and you’ll need to stay flexible. But the important thing is that you have a plan, and with a plan you’ll be able to make more informed decisions as to what you’re saying yes or no to. Revisions can then be made fairly stress free.

Thanks for reading, and I will talk to you soon!

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Getting Started with Blended Instructional Coaching

In a recent meeting with updates on distance learning, I saw a visual during the presentation that made me go, “Ah-ha!” That makes sense!

Essentially, the visual inspired me to make the connection between blended learning and blended instructional coaching. Just as students can engage in meaningful learning in a variety of environments, so can teachers. It makes our work as coaches a little trickier, but doable.

Whether you are currently coaching remote, hybrid, or in-person I would say that moving forward, all of our work will be blended in some capacity. And so I created this graphic to help me better understand how we can approach supporting the professional learning of teachers in a blended environment.

If you’d like to learn more about how I’ve been applying this blended coaching framework in my role, please consider joining me in the Getting Started with Instructional Coaching Pocket PD.

I’ve also created a fun planning kit to go along with the learning!

In this Pocket PD I’ll walk you through how I have been applying this blended coaching framework to my own work this year.

And lastly, there will be an optional follow-up Q&A on Zoom offered. Let’s chat and figure this out together!

Looking forward to it!

How I Use Block Scheduling to Structure My Days

Hello, and welcome back! How’s distance coaching/teaching been going for you?

I feel like I’m finally starting to get my groove with all of the distance learning things (now that school is almost over, geez!). And just like you, I’ve been adjusting to new technology, new schedules, new expectations, and establishing a “new normal” work-life balance.

Today I thought I’d walk you through what my schedule is currently looking like and how I’m managing my time, so my days don’t turn into one big blursday (ha!). Let’s get started!

Distance Learning

So the main strategy I’ve used to help give structure to my days and weeks is…block scheduling or time blocking. Time Blocking! It’s pretty amazing when you put it to good use. Jordan Page at Fun Cheap or Free has a great blog post I recently revisited that got me energized to use the time blocking strategy during these distance learning days.

Let me start by giving you an overview of how I’ve set up my distance learning blocks/schedule.

I created this schedule given the guidelines provided by our school, but I was also able to “bundle” my instructional time to all be in the morning which works better for me.

Since I’m nearing the end of the school year, I’ve also done some planning ahead for what I want my summer time blocks to look like. You’ll see they look very similar to what my current blocks look like! I just switched out the “teach” block with work I’ll be doing for myself…working on my blog, as well as keeping up with the FIVE classes I have signed up to take this summer!

Summer Block Schedule

OK. Now that you have the overview in mind, I’ll give you a closer look at what’s happening in each of my blocks.

And as we take this walk through be thinking about how you might structure your own time blocks!

I’m a morning person, so my morning block is a big chunk of my day…and my favorite! I’ve structured this time so I’m able to work on my priority projects and also get myself set-up and energized for a great teach from home day.

Next up, is my “Teach” block. As I mentioned, I was able to bundle all of my student instructional time to be during this block which has really worked well. My instructional time includes daily crew meetings with students, one-on-one instructional support time, as well as small group instruction.

I’ve been working from the kitchen table which has been just fine. I set up all of my supplies…laptop, Time & ToDo Planner, weekly work-box, water bottle and I’m ready to go!

After teaching and before planning meetings I make time for a tea break with my favorite work from home buddy…Sombra! (Luke is holding up a treat for him to pose for the pic, so he’s looking very serious :)

For my morning meetings:

  • Every day I meet with the third grade team for planning and check-in’s.
  • And on Tuesdays, I meet with IDT. This is our instructional design team. We’re currently getting started on work planning for next year.

Oh, and as far as coaching goes, my primary focus during this time has been on teaching. Lynsey (math coach/teaching partner) and I have been able to collaborate to share and present ideas with teachers for how to structure their small group instruction. Otherwise, coaching has really taken a back seat. Depending on what next year looks like, distance/virtual coaching is something I’m really going to need to wrap my brain around!

Instructional Coaching

After a morning of teaching and a few meetings, it’s time for my “Plan & Meet” block. First, I’ll stop and have some lunch. One positive about working from home is that Luke and I have been able to have lunch together every day. He has always worked from home, though my being here to make him something to eat has been a treat!

After lunch I’ll work on any planning related tasks, and I’ll take another look through any emails that have come in.

In the later part of the afternoon, I often have various meetings. A few this past week have included:

  • Interviews
  • Planning for coaching next year with our principal
  • Planning for the new interventionist roles for next year
  • Meeting with our new interventionists (I will start next year as a mentor for this team)
  • Leadership Team
Instructional Coaching Distance Learning

Next up, is my “Personal” block! First, I’ll head out and take Sombra for his afternoon walk so we can both get some fresh air. I’ve been working hard during the day so I may also make a cup of tea and catch up on a book I’ve been reading.

Distance Learning Instructional Coaching

And then lastly, it’s time for my “Evening” block. I’ll make some dinner, clean up the kitchen, and pat myself on the back for a job well done today. After all that is done, Luke, Sombra and I will snuggle up and either watch a show together OR I might just jump straight into bed with my book! (Yes, I do go to bed quite early :).

Instructional Coaching Dinner

A few additional tips for time blocking your days:

  • Color code your planner/calendar -> I like to draw colored lines in my Time & ToDo Planner to help me stay visually on track throughout the day (ps – 2020-21 planners are coming soon!)
  • I also LOVE to use checklists for routine or recurring tasks during each of my blocks. For school I have been using Google Keep. And for home, I keep a laminated checklist in my planner.
Time Blocking Distance Learning

Phew, we made it! That was fun, huh? I know I love a good day in the life post.

I hope I have given you some ideas for how you might integrate time blocking into your own time management system. Whether this week, this summer, or even next year, give it a try!

As always, thanks for taking the time to hang out with me today and I will talk to you soon!