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GTD for teachers...ideas?

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  • GTD for teachers...ideas?

    Hi all,

    I'm new to the forum, but have read the GTD book and read far too many blogs about GTD in an attempt to find a system that works for me. Are there any teachers on here using GTD? When I look at all the things involved in being a teacher it seems like a profession in need of GTD, but I can't quite figure out how to make them work together.

    For example, planning units of study. I understand that the planning is a project, but what about the ongoing teaching? And the grading? Is each class a project?

    For what it's worth, I'm also attempting to use OmniFocus as a system for my GTD and am having trouble seeing what in my job should be a single action list and what is a project.

    Some background - I teach at a secondary school and teach three subjects across seven groups of students. I'm also the webmaster for our school's website and teach a conversational English course for the staff and caretakers. And I seem to be the go-to ICT team. It's a small school But you can see how I need some help from GTD in learning how to manage all these moving parts.

    Hoping to find some teachers here or just generous GTD ninjas with some ideas for how to approach my situation. Thank you!

  • #2
    I'm not a teacher but my wife is, so I've got a little insight into your world .

    I'd suggest not having each class or subject as a project - in my experience having highly open-ended projects can cause dysfunction in the system. I'd be more inclined to think of class/teaching time as calendar entries only as a start. In terms of prep for each class, this might be a recurring action (I have a schedule of recurring actions, that forms part of my weekly review, so I put the next recurring action onto my lists 'on cycle').

    Beyond that - certainly you will likely have a span of projects, I would come back to my first point of trying to break them down into closed-ended projects - ie, define what the specific goal or outcome is for each.

    An alternative thought is that each class or subject could be an area of focus for you, to help group your thinking, esp when you do your weekly review.

    I'm sure there are others who can provide more advice on this, but I hope this helps!


    • #3
      Thanks for the feedback! I started by having areas of focus as work, home, graduate school/professional development, but I'm realizing more and more that work is so massive that it needs to be separated out into areas of focus. I teach two very different subjects (English and technology) and those two things alone are enough to get me confused.

      I can see how "grade Year 4 English essays" is a project with clear next actions. It's just the planning that I'm a little iffy about. I think it's because I need to get better about how I plan units of instruction in general . I'm going to start by treating them as projects with mini-sub projects within them such as: write assignment sheet, develop rubric, etc.

      GTD seems like it could be a boon for teachers, but I haven't come across much about the education world using it. I did discover an administrator/principal using it, but the work of admins is so different from the work of teachers that I'm not sure it carried over.


      • #4
        I have two mindmaps for my areas of focus - one for work and one for home. Within the mindmaps I have 7 areas for work and 12 areas for home. This may sound like too many, but I find that my focus shifts around naturally and having all the areas on the map helps me to keep them aligned. I'm ok with some of them having no projects and others having quite a few. I review them once a month and this works well for me.


        • #5
          I'm not a teacher but I've done a bachelor of engineering and two post grad courses.
          I find that for my job and I think teaching as well you need a bit more detail in the planning. I was on Connect for a while, and DA in one of his webinars said that for most people the natural planning model is fine, but for some jobs the planning does need to be more detailed, so traditional project management planning methods are used to complement the GTD system. All of the detailed analysis like Gantt charts become project support materials.

          I think teaching and studying both benefit from fairly detailed plans, I take the natural planning model and just expand and put more detail in it than the book describes. I have one word document for each AOF with all the project plans in it, and I would have each subject as one project. Each assignment/exam/activity would be a sub project, and for each subproject I would have a mini plan.

          It becomes a long document, but I make use of headings and the document map feature, and I put an * in front of any section that I want to review in detail in the weekly review.
          I also use a Gantt chart for tracking all my activities and smoothing out my workload, and also an Excel spreadsheet for stakeholder engagement, to record what documents I sent to whom and when.


          • #6

            I'm a teacher with 3 classes of 6th grade math (almost 2 hours each) and using the GTD system has certainly helped me to keep my sanity!! I use Remember the Milk for my action lists (both PC and iPhone app)

            I take a slightly different approach, though, in that I try to keep things as simple as possible as far as projects and actions. I have a @work tag that I use for things that need to be done at school. I also vary slightly from traditional GTD in that my @computer list is split into @computer-personal, and @computer-work. Even though I can do computer work at home for school, it helps me to keep them separate. This way, when I'm in "work mode" I can focus on all the tasks on the computer that I need for class. I mark these actions with both @computer and @work.

            I keep a Teaching-daily project list for those everyday sort of things that crop up and need to be taken care of, but really are not a project unto themselves. "Grade chapter tests" fits into this. Also things like "write lesson plans", "email lesson plans", and "change bulletin board" go into this. I know what unit comes next, so to make it a separate project would involve me rotating projects more than just focusing on the next action involved. (I also use due dates in RTM to help keep me focused on when things need to be done vs. as soon as possible)

            Special projects do get their own project on the list. We have an individualized plan that goes to some students that need to be completed by teacher, student, and parent. That project is labeled "Teaching - PEP". But, this project has a definite ending. I've also got projects for progress reports & report cards, my evaluations by administration, projects related specifically to teaching math "Teaching - math", and changes I need to make/update on my class website. Each project start with "Teaching - XXX" so they are all together in my project list. I find that the "Teaching - daily" can handle the routine tasks that I need to keep track of without getting too large. I also keep an @agenda - XXXX action list for those people I might need to talk to about different things, such as our media person, principal, etc.

            Since our job requires lots of actions in a limited time (planning & after school), plus plenty of changes that can occur instantly (ex. parent conferences), I'd recommend keeping your project lists as simple as possible without letting them get too huge to manage.

            If you want to talk more, feel free to email me and I'd be glad to help you out, at least with my own experiences. I hope this helps you out some!!


            • #7
              Hello from Greece, everyone !!!! I am an English teacher, doing mainly private one on one lessons, and u was wondering if anyone could give me some ideas on using some GTD techniques, in the OneNote environment!!!


              • #8
                I'm a physics professor. For me a course is a project, and I check it off at the end of the semester. Generally I find over-planning is an attractive trap, so I try to make mini-projects single actions. Grading is usually a single task, but I will update a progress marker in the title as I go (problem 1-3 done, 4-5 left). Process email backlog, when it needs to be done, has a count (83). Reading a book may have a page number or not depending on why I'm reading the book and whether there's a deadline. Sometimes a mini-project will get updated in place, e.g. Add extra project topics to original list in syllabus / End of semester projects. The stuff before the / will get updated once I do the current task. If I work with a graduate student one-on-one, I have a University Agenda list that is as much to remind me of the current status of the project as anything else, e.g., Dave- test E=0 and T=0 limits. Prep time is almost always evenings. I don't schedule formally, but do have due items on my list for lecture prep, problem set prep, et cetera. I use the course syllabus as my principal reference in course planning- it's not in my GTD lists.


                • #9
                  I too am a professor -- of microbiology & Infectious diseases. I work in a similar fashion as described by mcogilvie. Courses are projects. I also have miniprojects within each of these semester-long projects. I schedule time on my calendar for many things -- sometimes project blocks, sometimes major next actions. I do a significant amount of weekly planning during my Monday morning weekly review -- that is when I decide what I plan to do on respective days. Of course, things may change as the week progresses and I modify accordingly, but I have found that a weekly plan keeps me on target.