Lately, I have been swapping stories with colleagues and students about how social distancing has changed our lives. I am thankful that I still have a job, and my heart goes out to those that do not. I anticipate that I will be working online until August.
I have taught online for over a decade. However, my other daily work activities were face to face. Though my colleagues and I are apart, one thing that we have noticed is that we take more time to connect. Sometimes, I have three meetings a day, and some of them are impromptu. Perhaps we want to feel connected. Or it could be the documentation that is required of us now.
Before the coronavirus, there were fewer questions about what we do with our days. Now, there is a subliminal perception that we might be shrugging off work in favor of long lunches and soap operas. Hence, the persuasive e-mails strongly urging us to attend lunch meetings, professional development, and online departmental get-togethers.
Some of the school librarians that I have talked with have told me that they are providing a lot of professional development. Some are required to present at least twice a week. And, of course, being called upon to share the latest news and tools to help teachers reinforce our efforts to show how librarians enhance schools. We could say that the changes made because of the coronavirus have put a spotlight on our capabilities.
The changes have also illuminated the challenges that our educational system faces. Overnight, many teachers who have no experience with distance learning have been charged with adjusting curriculums to an online environment. Then there are the obstacles that our children are encountering. Education has stopped for some of them because they do not have Internet access or a device to connect to their classes. Then I have been told that sometimes when students connect, they have difficulties completing basic tasks such as writing an e-mail or typing into text boxes. Others are in the process of learning proper online etiquette.
Indeed, there is much to be done, and the demand for working at home makes it more tedious. It can seem as if there is no time to breathe when one is getting accustomed to the expectations. As such, I am going to take a few minutes to share how I manage working at home. Here are a couple of tips.
Set goals: I create weekly goals so that I know what should be done by the end of the week. Then I prioritize the goals. I need goals to be accountable to myself. A new project will inevitably be added. When a spontaneous project is added, I look to see how it fits within my goals to determine what should be done first.
Schedule work: My Outlook calendar is my friend. If I neglect my friend, I am sure to overbook myself and have a miserable week. I make a schedule because I know that I can’t be in two places at once. I am more productive when I pace myself.
Work regular hours: Every day, I am up and ready to work during regular business hours. Starting on time helps me to preserve some normalcy in my life. I try to complete my work on time so that the days don’t run together.
Set alarms. Last month I missed a meeting because I lost track of time. Now I set alarms on my phone and tablet to keep me from missing appointments. My calendar has an alert, but I need the signals for the shock factor. I hear the alarms and remember there is something that I must complete immediately.
Create a workspace. I have created a workspace in my home. When I am in this space, it is evident that I am either in a meeting or doing my job. It is a visual signal to my family that I need quiet time to stay on task.
Remember documentation. I put documentation notes in my Outlook calendar. And I don’t skip the 10-minute conversations because they often lead to an hour-long task. Plus, time is valuable. Once it is spent, I can’t get it back. I need to look back over my day and know that my efforts were meaningful. If you need ideas for things to document, see this post: “Documentation Matters.”
Take breaks. Whenever I feel weary, I get up, and I take a break. Sitting at the computer all day is not healthy. Give yourself time to breathe and to have a healthy snack. Try going for a walk. Talking to someone else helps too.
Forgive yourself. Telecommuting is a skill that many educators are learning while they implement it. I like to be perfect. Still, I will be the first to say that I make mistakes. I admit that I have made a mistake, and I fix the issue. Then I move on. Don’t let a mistake ruin your day or week.
So now you have my tips for getting through a telecommuting day like a boss. Do you have strategies that work for you? Please share and remember that professional development is a great way to interact with the world around us while we are self-distancing. See the professional development below.
Freephotocc. 2020. Notebook laptop Macbook conceptual coffee. https://pixabay.com/photos/notebook-laptop-macbook-conceptual-1280538/
Author: Daniella Smith
Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently an associate professor at the University of North Texas.