Reflections on… How do they get time?

This is one in a series of posts in which I look back on 10 years of blogging and reflect on posts from the past.

10 years ago I wrote this post in which I pontificated on the amazing productivity of bloggers and all round ELT gurus Shelly Terrell (who went on to become a great conference friend) and Jason Renshaw (who left ELT for other pastures). I couldn’t imagine how they managed such high-levels of productivity in face of all the other things going on in their lives.

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

Flash forward 10 years and now, oh how I laugh at the younger me! Because there’s no doubt that I have transformed into one of those people. At the time of writing I am professionally involved in the following:

  • Teaching ten to fifteen one to one students a week
  • Materials writing
  • Three podcasts
  • Editing a teachers magazine
  • The boards of a national and a local teaching association, and an IATEFL SIG.
  • Running a publishing project
  • Project managing a teacher training company
  • Presenting at conferences
  • And occasional blogging

So I feel well positioned to answer past James’s question. I get the time because:

  • I work for myself, from home. So that’s no more travel time and no time wasted on things I don’t want to do. In essence, I am solely responsible for how my time is spent. This is probably responsible for me gaining two or three hours a day.
  • As Shelly mentioned in the comments, I don’t watch much TV anymore, especially compared to the amount I used to. I watch an amount I’m happy with but prefer to work on my projects which I can listen to music, my first love, while I do.
  • I use my time more efficiently. I try very hard not to waste time on things that don’t give me much in return, or if I do have to do these more menial tasks I try to do them while I’m watching TV. It’s all about matching the activity with the time slot. Writing requires concentration and time, so I find blocks of two or three hours, turn off notifications and choose music that isn’t distracting. If I have a half an hour gap between lessons, that’s when I reply to some emails and messages.
  • I try to manage the workflow so I don’t spend too many hours in front of the computer without a break. It’s tough, literally everything I do professionally involves a computer, but I do pilates, go and get a cup of tea, do some cooking or housework, read, anything just to break up the day so I’m not starting at a screen all the time.

But the main thing is just really about mentality. I have decided how I want to spend my time. Shelly gave me the answer in the comments:

Some people think it’s a bit mad. I think differently. Daily, I remind myself that I only have this one life. I want to make the most of it so that if tomorrow I’m not here I will never regret. I want to help who I can and make a difference in education and the world. I have passions that drive me and I am very focused… At the same time, I think there is no prescription for life. I think each of us chooses for ourselves. I wouldn’t tell someone they have to be like me or anyone else but maybe establish a vision for themselves and try to live that vision! 

Shelly’s words resonate with me today. I enjoy the things I do, I think they have value and offer something to the ELT world. This is how I want to spend my time. It certainly isn’t a prescription for everyone, and there will be times in the future when I scale back a bit, but it isn’t now. There’s too much to be done.


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