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Many children and educators have now started school, others are about to, and some families have opted for virtual or home learning. So a ‘new normal’ really translates as ‘a fresh discovery phase’. While we are still exploring how education could look, not only in the immediate future but for the long term as well, the question follows, ‘how is success now defined?’. Many schools stopped testing during COVID-19 and the majority of educational thought leaders are calling for an end to traditional testing, seeing its elimination in exchange for more project, inquiry based learning as a transformative step towards more engaged, problem-solving, critical thinking students.

So, in this school year like no other – while we question how do we define student success, another aspect of the same question is, how do we define productivity?

It appears to be a conversation that’s migrated from the corporate world, which makes sense when the majority of employees at the beginning of COVID-19 were suddenly working from home. Those employers who’d never experienced a work force outside of brick and mortar offices were very concerned that productivity would plummet. That in itself has been an interesting reveal, where even during a stress inducing pandemic, productivity has actually increased.

An organization, Thrive Global, whose mission is to ‘help individuals, companies and communities improve their well-being and performance, and unlock their greatest potential’, recently shared some reflections from their community during the last six months of COVID-19 on how they are redefining productivity. These members have recognized that in order to thrive and contribute effectively they must first care for their own well-being. This concept seems as relevant to educators as to the corporate world, especially when the work of educators includes caring for many students who are also uncertain during this time.

The list below from some of the Thrive Global community members explaining their insights into their wellness needs in order to be happy and productive at work, are as equally revealing and poignant to educators reading this. We hope you find some helpful and relatable wellness tips here to support your journey through this school year and beyond. Because in order to effectively take care of your students, you must first take care of yourself and your colleagues. By doing so it will in turn resonate from you to your students and teach them the power and benefit of their own self care in order for them to thrive and achieve successful learning outcomes.

Focusing on quality over quantity
“I hope that we all focus more on quality versus quantity — on the quality of our interactions with colleagues and clients, on the quality of time spent on projects, and on priorities that contribute to meaningful change. Rather than tracking quantitative progress, let’s make sure that the goals we set truly focus on making a meaningful impact, both in the short term and long term.” – Marta Chavent, change and management consultant, France

Setting clear boundaries
“I’m redefining productivity in our next normal by setting better boundaries in all areas of my life. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that the only way to make the most of my time is to set boundaries and stick to them. I’m setting boundaries with my workday by logging off on time to prevent overworking. Additionally, I’ve learned that boundaries around our time have a place in our personal lives, too. If you only set boundaries at work, you might do yourself a disservice when it comes to feeling productive outside of work. Setting better boundaries in all areas of my life will help me achieve both my professional and personal goals.” – Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO

Avoiding short-term thinking
“We all want to get things done and do our work efficiently, but in moments of crisis and high uncertainty, it’s normal for focus to fall apart. We are forced to step back and look at productivity over the long term. We need to start acknowledging that if a certain task needs to get done, right now we may need to focus on getting ourselves through this moment first, and that the realistic timeframe is later. Instead of only thinking in the short-term, I’ve found it helpful to approach my work from the perspective of, How can I continue to do this, and do it well, for another 20+ years?’” – Kristin Jekielek, founder of Resilient Productivity, Philadelphia, PA

Letting go of “not enough-ness”
“To feel productive before the pandemic, it was easy to be satisfied with the number of to-dos I tackled each day — how many articles were written, how many emails answered, how many tasks checked off the list. It was also easy to fall prey to the voice whispering, ‘You’re not doing enough.’ Now, I consider the outcomes of my actions and ask whether or not they made the world a more caring and just place. If not, I take them off the list.” – Diane Gillespie, emerita professor, Seattle, WA

Replacing our “doing” with “being”
“Before Covid-19, I was caught up in doing, doing, doing, versus just being. There’s incredible value and perspective in being present, being engaged, being open, and being thoughtful. These past few months have been a great teacher. I am so much more aware of the importance of being a student of life.” – Nicki Anderson, program director at Benedictine University, Lisle, IL

Prioritizing self-care
“In the past, I always felt unproductive if I was spending time on anything that didn’t directly help me progress in my career. During the pandemic, I have been able to slow down, spend time with family, read books, sit at the beach, journal, and meditate. I have realized that performing these activities, instead of constantly pushing myself to do more work, has made me much happier and less stressed. I am even kinder and more generous toward others! I now realize that self-care is productive. In order to be there for others, we must take care of ourselves!” – Brie LaPrell, accountant, Buffalo, NY

Focusing on small tasks
“Moving forward, I will define productivity with more sensitivity, and with more realistic goals. For me, that means not waiting until my plan for execution is perfect, and not tackling a huge task all at once. Productivity instead will mean tackling the many tasks on my list in increments of 15-20 minutes. During this time, I’ve learned that tackling tasks with that approach feels more tangible and less overwhelming.” – Cecilia Grey, client liaison and content creator, Santa Barbara, CA

Scheduling more breaks into the day
“From now on, being productive in the era of the new normal means giving my body time to breathe and rest throughout the day. I find that I’m more productive when I schedule ten minutes in my calendar to slow down — whether that means breathing, quieting my mind, or moving my body.” – Lee-Anne Wine, therapist, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Doing what feels meaningful
“Productivity has come to mean doing more of what matters in all facets of life, and doing less of the rest. Because this is a highly personal consideration, we need to become masters of our own productivity. Everyone needs to explore their personal definition of success and become empowered to prioritize what is most important to their happiness. This means we need to start letting go of other people’s ‘shoulds,’ making sometimes hard choices, and learning to say no. It also means recognizing that output should be measured not in hours spent, but in the quality of the results achieved and the happiness generated.” – Becky Morrison, executive coach, Ashburn, VA

Implementing a supportive culture
“For a long time, productivity and success have been measured simply on showing up and acting busy. As we pivot to the new normal and employers question how employees can stay focused and engaged, we need to rethink our work-life boundaries and how they’re evolving. We must look at ways to strengthen our cultures and prioritize quality in our interactions over quantity. Human connection and community building is all about creating an experience that fosters trust and confidence. By embracing diverse teams and creating safe spaces for collaboration and innovation, we can create cultures that are more connected and productive than ever before.” – Nim Sivakumaran, B2B community and eco-system builder, Asia Pacific

Keeping top priorities top of mind
“For me, productivity means working with my priorities in mind. My family, my mental health, my sleep, and all of the things I have become even more grateful for during this time, are now my main focus. To ensure I don’t slip back into old patterns, before accepting work or starting a task, I vow to look to my ‘Post-it Priorities’ that are stuck on my wall, and evaluate if and how saying ‘yes’ would fit in with them.” – Roxy Rhodes, life and business coach, Sheffield, U.K.

Thank you to Thrive Global article – ’15 Ways We’re Redefining Productivity in Our Next Normal’

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