Organizing your day with the Yellow Sheet
Proverbs 14:8 “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways”
Being a teacher means you have countless things to keep track of and to remember. But with one sheet of paper and a few minutes of your time, you can stay ahead of it all. The Yellow Sheet will keep track of all those pesky to-do’s for you, which will free up your mind and allow you to prioritize and do the important things first. You’ll also enjoy being able to focus on one thing at a time, and that will make you more effective. Here’s how it works: Get Yourself Ready
- Arrive early and find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted for at least 15 minutes. This is not negotiable.
- Take out a sheet of plain yellow paper.
- Write today’s day and date at the top.
- Divide the bottom into an oversized “T”. Now there are 3 sections:
- the large upper section is for planning today’s lesson
- the small lower-left box is where you will list urgent things that have to get done before your first class arrives
- and the lower-right box is for your less-important things that need to get done later today
- Chances are, you’re head is already full of things to do. So before anything else, write them all down. Write the urgent ones (those that have to get done before students arrive) in the lower-left box. All the rest go in the lower-right. Use just 2-3 words for each- that’s all you need to be reminded.
- With your head clear, you can now give your full attention to the most important thing- your lesson. Below the day and date write down the first thing you’re doing in class.
- Whatever it is you just wrote down, stop and think about it. Look around your empty room and imagine it happening. Think through it completely, from beginning to end. When you realize there’s something you still need to do, write it down in the lower-left box. See it working already?
Now the important part- DON’T GET UP AND DO ANYTHING! It’s written down, so it will get done. Trust yourself. Do your running around later when noise doesn’t matter (or better yet, put a student helper to work).
- Keep thinking through that first activity until you have thought all the way through it.
- Do the same with the next thing going on in class, and so on until you’re done.
- Always finish by deciding what the homework will be. If there isn’t any, write “none”.
Congratulations, you did it! In just 15 minutes you have taken control of your entire school day. With any left over time get to work on your list in the lower-left corner.
- Keep a stack of plain yellow sheets close, but not too close. Only use them to plan your day so that yellow paper means just one thing to you. (By the way, you can use any color, but white is not recommended- you’ll keep misplacing it.)
- Another thing you’ve got to do to stay ahead is to set out all equipment and materials you need the day before. Running around gathering materials the morning of causes stress and is a waste of the most important time of day when your mind is actually clear and working.
- Finish every task in the lower-left (the “urgent” box) before starting anything in the lower-right box.
- Don’t check your email until everything in the lower-left box is done (this one is tough to resist!). Email is the easiest way to lose 15 minutes. Remember- you’re a teacher, and nothing is more important than your lesson.
- Before beginning a task that will take you a long time to do, go on a 10 minute spree and knock out a bunch of small tasks. That will keep you from being bothered by everything else you’re not getting done.
- Don’t list obvious to-do’s like “eat lunch” and “check email”. Those make your list look more full and busy, which is what you don’t want.
- Combine all errands that you can do in distant places, like the office, so you don’t have to keep walking back (unless you like being there).
- You’ll occasionally battle yourself when you don’t feel like doing something. Try starting the dreaded task, and you’ll almost always continue working on it and forget how you felt.
- Leave your desk halfway organized when you leave school at the end of the day so you can jump right into the new lesson tomorrow morning.
- You should never stop to do a “quick” favor for someone who drops in unannounced, unless it really is important. These people typically are very wasteful with their time, who react to everything as if it was an emergency. But your priority is your students and not them, so put this person’s task on your list and tell them you’ll help them as soon as you can. If you keep bailing them out, they’ll never change.
- Grading papers is a low priority and should not be done before school, unless you have nothing better to do. Do this later in the day when distractions don’t matter. Squeeze more time out of your day by grading a few papers in between classes and during other bits of free time (faculty meetings?). Leave your more valuable blocks of planning time open for extended planning, reading, or running errands.
- When you’re having a class discussion, don’t ever assume it will just take care of itself. Give every part of it consideration as you think through the lesson. Ask yourself things like:
- How will I open?
- How long will this take?
- What’s a good series of leading questions?
- What is one really good question I can’t wait to ask?
- What will I do when Johnny interrupts me?
- What visual aids will I use?
- What will I do if my technology fails me?
- …and so on
- Keep your old yellow sheets around for a year so you can refer to them next year when you can’t remember exactly how you did something.
Here’s everything you just read shown on video (in case you’re more visual.)