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How to Beat Back-to-School Procrastination

Two young girls slouch on a couch, staring at their phones.

If you enjoy making list after list, this article is for you!

I'm sure that some teachers actually enjoy preparing for a new school year. But if the thought of going back to school sends you crawling back into bed with a pint of ice cream to watch Netflix, this one's for you.

Further Reading: 5 Major Time Management Challenges for Teachers and How to Avoid These Time Sucks

Procrastinating won't make that long back-to-school checklist any shorter—and, according to Psychology Today, procrastinating can lead to stress, guilt, shame, sleep problems, health issues, and low self-esteem.

The only way to beat school procrastination is to get started, so here are some ideas to tackle the most dreaded back-to-school tasks.

Get By with a Little Help from Your Friends

Is there any thought worse than going back to the hot, stuffy classroom you just packed up a few months ago, just to put it all back together? Whether you're assembling a room full of colorful kindergarten bulletin boards or a high-school science lab, setting up your classroom is a daunting task—one most often done on your own time and without any pay in return.

Reassembling your classroom is a task best tackled with help. If you work with teacher friends, coordinate a day to come in together and help each other. Or enlist the aid of friends, family, or school-age kids who might find the task fun and exciting. Just make sure you plan a fun lunch or reward after. They'll definitely have earned it.

Count Down to Inbox Zero

Emails are like weeds. In the spring and early summer, you might only find a handful in your school inbox—but come August, it's a jungle in there. Wanting to bury your head and ignore your school email all summer is understandable, but you have to deal with all those messages eventually.

How many of us fall into this vicious cycle—read an email, debate about responding, decide to deal with it later, open it again the next day, feel more stress, decide to put it off one more day, move on to read new emails, and on and on?

Here's where the one-touch rule can be helpful for teachers. As soon as you touch something—an email from your department head, a voicemail from a parent, a magazine subscription renewal notice—take care of it immediately instead of waiting to deal with it later, CNBC says.

Stress compounds the longer you delay a task, so dealing with tasks immediately will help you alleviate school procrastination and make more efficient use of your time.

Get Professional Development Out of the Way Early

Most teachers are required to complete professional development hours over the summer—and most of us put it off as long as we can. Attending a workshop or class in the summer is the last thing most of us feel like doing. Once you're in summer mode, after all, it's hard to get motivated to spend hours learning about the latest reading initiative or evidence-based strategies to engage your students. At this point in the year, you just want to take a nap.

It's not likely that you'll ever really feel like completing your professional development, so setting a time is key to getting it done. This is relatively easy if you're attending a workshop on a set date. Just make sure to register ahead of time and block off the date in your calendar.

Completing professional development hours online, which doesn't require a specific time, can be trouble if you're an inveterate procrastinator. Your best bet is to set a deadline and hold yourself to it. Schedule a date and time to complete your online hours as though it were an actual meeting. You might even want to plan to go to a library or a coffee shop, where you're more likely to be productive and less likely to get distracted. Again.

Take a Big Chunk out of Big Projects

One of the biggest—and most daunting—summer tasks is completing and submitting your teaching plans. Whether it's a syllabus, a curriculum map, a lesson plan, a scope and sequence, or a sheet of aligned standards, some variation of this is typically due before the first day of school.

To tackle a task this big, try the chunking method: break it up into manageable chunks and prioritize the most important tasks to help you feel less overwhelmed. According to life coach Tony Robbins, people become overwhelmed when they have more than three things to learn or do. Chunking cuts tasks into ideally sized nuggets that your mind can more easily grasp and accomplish without feeling stress or shutting down.

Further Reading: The 3 Biggest Classroom Time Management Issues

Even the best teachers are compelled to procrastinate completing their back-to-school tasks and preparing for a new school year. Using these strategies can help you feel more capable, efficient, and productive—even when your summer self is telling you to kick back and relax.