Why Doing One Thing is a Good Thing

Just this one word is enough to send shivers down the spine of many people. Mention it and images of crowded, noisy classrooms come to mind. Piles of paperwork stacked high in the corners of decorated, messy rooms flash through memories of many. Strong willed students, numerous scheduled meetings, frazzled teachers, parent requests piling up and plans to be finished all contribute to the picture forming in many minds.

But alongside this, what a lot of people don’t see, is the joy on the faces of students when they ‘get it’, the collaborative discussions with colleagues, the long lasting positive relationships that are formed and the lasting impact that is made on the lives of many of our young people.

It’s just that teaching is so busy!

Many teachers are asking, “Just how do I cope with all the demands placed on me?”
A very fair and relevant question indeed.

[bctt tweet=”Teaching is busy! Just prioritise one thing at a time!” username=”donnagolightly1″]


I came to realise a while ago that the best way for me to work through the very long list of what needed to be done was to prioritise and then focus on one thing at a time.

Everyone’s priorities are different, but everyone knows what is important to them in their position. My priority was always my students – what was it that I needed to do first in order to best meet their needs? Sometimes it was hard to keep this as priority number one as demands and requests from senior management, parents and other teachers could feel like they needed to be dealt with first. Some weeks I was more successful than others with this – but each day was a new day and another opportunity to refocus. It may have been that conversations needed to be had with some colleagues so that they understand and could appreciate what my particular priority was.

I am a great list person and this helped with my focus. #GoogleKeep is a great tool for this. You can create notes that allow you to add check boxes. It’s super easy to tick things off as they are completed – giving me a great visual of how productive I’d been.

[bctt tweet=”#GoogleKeep lets you make checkboxes to help stay organised.” username=”donnagolightly1″]

The new #GoogleTask bar in Gmail is a tool I’ve just begun using also. It sits right in my email view so lets me add tasks to my list directly from my emails.

[bctt tweet=”The task bar in the new #Gmail helps you make lists quickly!” username=”donnagolightly1″]
If you’re working within a Microsoft platform there’s a very useful ‘To do’ feature in #OneNote that will help you create a checklist of tasks you want to work through.


[bctt tweet=”Have you tried using #OneNote to help you stay organised?!” username=”donnagolightly1″]


Aside from checking off the day to day priorities of what needs to be done there’s also the long term pictures. Teaching is a profession of continual learning – there’s always some new tool to investigate, some new Professional Development road that is being embarked upon or some new idea that you’ve seen in your preferred PLN network that you want to give a go.

One thing at a time.

Choose one thing – and again, think of your priority. What is important for you? What is important for your students?

Choose one thing and do it well. Doing one thing well, as opposed to doing many things, but feeling like none of them have been done particularly well, is going to bring you much more satisfaction – and provide better outcomes for all involved.

…really came into its own, because there’s always new tools and ideas that could help develop the essential skills for students I was always keen to give them a go. But diving into lots of things and never really developing any one thing fully or to it’s maximise potential just ended up becoming an exercise in frustration. My students couldn’t really feel confident with anything as they felt they were only just beginning to explore possibilities before having to move on to something else. Choosing the one idea or the one tool that best suited what I want to achieve at that point in time – and adding the others to a list ‘To be explored’ at a later date – meant that much more purposeful and successful outcomes were achieved.

[bctt tweet=”Do one thing and do it well! #Lifelesson” username=”donnagolightly1″]


Sometimes this is beyond our control. A common example is when senior management decide that as a staff you’re going to participate in numerous new Professional Development paths, within the same time frame. At times like this you need to prioritise for yourself – what can you personally focus on fully in order to develop your teaching journey? Don’t park the rest, just priorities your energies and be honest with your senior leadership about what you can personally achieve.

If you’re clear in your own mind what your priority is, if you focus on one thing at a time, if you do one thing and do it well, teaching just may seem a little bit less frantic and a little bit more achievable…..give it a go. You just might conjure up a different image in your mind the next time someone says….

For more ideas on managing workloads read Adrian’s blog on Winning Back Time or Sam’s blog on Making Professional Development More Effective.

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