Organize Time Teacher TESLO

Organizing Your Time As an Online Teacher: What to Focus on and How to Get Things Done

Get things done

Don’t get stressed. Get organized!

When you have your own online teaching business, things can get a little hectic.

There are lessons to teach, marketing to be done, admin to be taken care of, planning, strategizing, advertising, posting, connecting, and whole bunch of other things to spend your time on.

And sometimes, you just sit there in front of your computer screen. Clicking.

As I have expanded my online teaching business over the years, I have had to get organized with my time to ensure that the important things get done; things that are actually going to move my business forward.

In this post, I want to share with you what currently works for me when it comes to organizing time, knowing what to focus on, and actually getting stuff done.

And it all starts with a plan…

Set Your Goals and a Plan of Action

Goals

My goals for 2015.

In my 2014 summary post, I talked about the big goals that I wanted to achieve in 2015.

Having a goal to aim for gives you clarity on what you want to achieve in your teaching business. And once you have this goal, it means that you can plan on what actions you need to take in order to get there.

So, think about your goals for the next 3, 6, 12 months, and then break up this goal by deciding what smaller projects/tasks are important.

So, as an example, let’s say you’re just starting out with your online teaching business and your goal is to have things up and running within three months.

From this, you make a plan to find your niche, create your website, and get some students into your lessons as soon as possible.

You can then break up these projects into tasks; for example, coming up with a site plan, buying a domain name, getting hosting etc.).

Give these tasks a deadline to be completed, and then make them a priority during your working hours.

Doing all of the above ensures that you are working on things that are going to help your teaching business.

Start Timeboxing and Batching Tasks

Time Boxing

Don’t leave things open

When you leave your days open, you allow your emotions, your energy levels, and other people’s agendas to dictate what you do.

This is how you end up spending two days exploring a new social networking site after reading about how one guy made $6,000 in five days (I’ve been there!), and completely ignoring what you should be doing.

Instead, plan out your days and weeks based on your goals and your plan of action, getting as specific as possible.

This is called timeboxing.

For example, every Monday at 10:30 I work on a new post/video for English learners for one hour. And on Wednesdays at 14:00, I work on my course for English teachers.

This is why teaching during a certain block of time helps too; it means that you can focus on teaching at a specific part of the day and spend the other part of your day working on everything else.

Also, try batching tasks (like sending emails) so that you’re not always moving from one task to the next. This helps you get into a rhythm and be more productive.

So base your daily and weekly work schedule based on the goals and plan of action that you come up with.

I even make some time on Fridays to reevaluate my long-term strategy, which stops me from thinking about the big picture when I should be getting things done.

Time boxing can be a little strange at first, and you might be thinking that it’s too regimented; but it has worked wonders for me.

Additionally, your schedule will evolve over time; I’m constantly changing things up on a weekly basis.

Focus and Avoid Distractions

Use apps to help you stay focused

Use apps to help you stay focused

Time boxing won’t work unless you can focus on the task in hand.

This is a constant struggle for me, and for nearly everyone I talk to who are working for themselves.

One thing that has helped greatly is the Stayfocusd app for Chrome. It works like this: you enter the URLs of the sites that you don’t want to visit while working, and ban them for a specific period of time.

When you try to go to a blocked site, you get a blank screen telling you that you should be working. This helps you refocus on your task.

It was amazing when I first started using this how often I would automatically go to my email or The Guardian or Facebook or Youtube, or even The Weather Channel.

I soon realized that I did this whenever I came to a sticking point with what I was doing; when I needed to really think about something in more depth.

Additionally, avoid other distractions by muting your phone, letting others know that you’re working, and by listening to music/putting on noise canceling earphones.

Having a deadline works wonders too. I’ve done this for my two big courses, and there is nothing like restricting your time to get you focused on what needs to get done.

Get Organized and Trust Systems

Three Productivity Tools for Online Teachers

My post on productivity tools

It took me a while to take the plunge and start using apps that I knew were going to help me. I’m just glad that I ended up getting them!

I talked about Asana and Evernote in this post, and the more I use them, the more I realize just how valuable they are.

Asana is the hub of everything I do: I use this to plan my projects, write down all my tasks, collaborate with my students and those who are getting mentoring from me, and to write down all the ideas that come into my head throughout the day.

Using applications like these takes a huge weight off and helps you focus on what’s important in that moment.

Outsource Where Possible

Chris Ducker Book

A great book on outsourcing

As a perfectionist, I find it difficult to pass tasks on to other people. But I’ve started doing more of this recently.

Last year, I was trying to do too many things that I wasn’t qualified for, or tasks that were repetitive and take up a lot of time.

For example, I started work on transcribing 40 videos for English learners, but soon realized that it would take me forever. I ended up paying someone to do this, and spent my time on other parts of the course that I was creating.

If you are new to online teaching, then you might be bootstrapping right now and doing everything yourself. Two things on this:

– You can always improve what you do now (logo, web design, welcome video etc.) at any time – so don’t feel like it has to be perfect right away (you should see some of my old sites!).
– Outsourcing doesn’t have to be expensive – there are plenty of things you can get done on Fivver, for example.

Here is a great book on outsourcing by Chris Ducker to help you get started with this.

Separate Work and Play, and Get Distance

Something I really struggled with last year was work vs play.

I spent too much time, especially in the evenings and at weekends, not really working and not really relaxing. I was watching football while trying to write an article, for example.

But over the last few months, I have managed to separate the time I spend working and the time I spend not working quite effectively. There are many tips for this (like working only at a specific location), but for me, having a work schedule and time boxing have been the deciding factors.

Getting distance from your work is important; it helps you come back fresher, more motivated, and with more creative energy.

Additionally, when you have specific times when you can get stuff done, you become more focused as you realize that this is the only time you have to do it.

Over to You

All the of the above is still a work in progress for me, but as I mentioned, I have made huge improvements with organizing my time so I’m more effective and productive with what I do.

Please leave any tips you have on this topic, or any thoughts you have on this post, in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading!

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Interview with Teacher Diane

Interview With a Location Independent Online English Teacher – Teacher Diane

Teacher Diane is someone who I have been following online for the last year or so.

So, it was a nice surprise when she reached out to me to connect. I soon realized that I wanted to give her the platform here at Teaching ESL Online to share her story and the valuable advice she has for other online teachers.

In our interview, Diane shares with us her experience of being a location independent online English teacher, and how she has managed to build up a large student base.

As you’ll see, she has some creative ways (and tools) to teach her lessons and make videos for her followers.

Here is the interview (watch in HD):

If you would like to teach English online, click here.

What We Discussed

Diane started teaching English five years ago, firstly in Brazil and then in Chicago. After two years of teaching in the language school in Chicago, she got the travel bug and decided to start her own website so that she could teach and travel at the same time.

Making the Transition

Diane was a little hesitant at first, but started with an old student and realized that she could do more online than in the classroom – screen sharing, links etc. – and she found that is was more comfortable to teach at home.

Diane uses a Wacom Tablet for her teaching, writing and drawing on this tablet. Her learners can see this on their screens along with her webcam.

She also uses the tablet to make her very unique videos for Youtube; here is an example:

Bringing Learners onto Her Website and Into Her Lessons

Youtube has been one the best sources of students for Diane, and she places a link at the start of each video and also in the description box under the video to bring people onto her site.

We then talked about putting ourselves out there on video, and how it can be strange to hear your own voice at first. I know this can be a concern for teachers when starting out, but this does become easier the more you do it.

Diane now schedules her posts on Facebook and batches this work every Sunday. She has three types of posts: a question post, something humorous, and then a post with a link back to her website.

She uses Facebook to build her brand and also to give more exposure to her videos and other materials.

Planning Lessons and Hiring Other Teachers

Diane has a tailored approach to her lessons where she is specific to each student, although she does have certain students who fall into a similar category. She has build up many resources over the years.

Diane has contracted other teachers to help with her workload, hiring teachers who she has met on her travels.

Plans for the Future

Diane’s plans are to focus on marketing her website and learn more about SEO and social media marketing.

She plans to create other sites for specific types of learners (English for doctors, for example). And in the long-term, she wants to write a grammar book and open a language school in the US.

Summary and Over to You

It’s great to see how successful Diane has been with her online teaching and her site does a great job at converting learners into paying students.

One thing that I took away from our interview is this: if you put quality stuff out there, work hard at it, and stay consistent, you are going to get rewarded.

At first, it might seem like you’re doing a lot for small reward; but as you build up momentum, you’ll start seeing some really good results, and have opportunities to hire others and expand just like Diane has done.

Please comment below to let me know your thoughts on this interview. I’m really interested to read what you have to say about this.

About Diane:

Diane is an English teacher from New York with over five years of experience teaching English to students from all over the world.  She is the Founder of teacherdiane.com, a website that provides personalized English lessons on Skype.  You can watch her English grammar tutorials or follow her Facebook group, Learn English on Skype.

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Google Drive Youtube Thumbnail

Using Google Drive to Collaborate With Learners Online (Including Audio Feedback)

There are many reasons to use Google Drive as an English teacher.

Personally, I use it for all my documents and spreadsheets which make running my online teaching business much easier.

But in the video below, I specifically look at how you can use Google Documents, Google Presentations, and a very special add-on to work with your students asynchronously.

These tools can be used whether you teach online or offline, and I hope it gives you some ideas of how you can work asynchronously with your learners.

Here is the video:

Use Google Drive for Writing Projects, Audio, and Presentations

In the video, I gave three examples of how you can use Google Drive with your learners.

Google Docs

I explained how to share a document (easy, right?), and then showed a project that one of my students worked on last year.

The idea to do this came from my interview with Mark Barnes (see here), where I asked my learner what type of project he wanted to do. I left it open, explained that it would be a long-term project, and he came back to me with his idea for a book.

Over the next few weeks, he added another chapter (about one page) to his book, and I corrected his work – which he could see through the revision history – and also commented on specific parts of the text to open up a discussion on certain points.

Something that I didn’t mention was that after correcting his work, I formed some questions based on the mistakes he made so he could practice specific structures in the following one-to-one lesson.

Kaizena

Kaizena was recommended to me by Rich Kiker (see his interview here), and although I have only used it on a couple of occasions, I see huge potential with this add-on for Google Docs.

Some ideas for using this with your learners are:

– To give general feedback on a task or project
– To collaborate with your learner on their pronunciation
– To give more speaking practice

If you’re looking for something a little more detailed for speaking feedback, I recommend SoundCloud (example below),

Google Presentations

One of my long-term students had a presentation to give for a job interview last autumn (did you notice American English creeping in during the video?).

We used Google Presentations to work together on this. Firstly, he wrote his presentation and his notes, and I then corrected his mistakes in the slides and gave feedback using the comment feature.

In addition, we used SoundCloud so I could give him feedback on his spoken presentation.

(Note: He got the job!)

Instead of taking a one-to-one lesson, it was much more efficient and effective for us to use Google Presentation and SoundCloud.

Over to You

Have you used Google Drive to collaborate with your students?

If so, or if you have any thoughts on this at all, please leave a comment below.

WANT TO TEACH ONLINE? START HERE...

If you're curious about online teaching, get my free video series on how you can get started. Click the button and enter your details to get instant access to video 1!

how-to-teach-engish-online