Two of my planned-to-a-tee colleagues were cursing the school district for which we work when it tweaked our A/B eight-period block schedule at the last minute at the beginning of the school year. It meant a day formerly an A Day was now a B Day and vice versa. They complained about having to rework the whole schedule they’d planned for the first two quarters.
I didn’t complain about the schedule at all. I just rolled with it because I hadn’t pinned down a schedule. In fact, the last few years, I haven’t pinned down a schedule at all and I’ve breathed easier because of it.
The way I schedule is this: I have ideas and activities in mind I would like to do and think about how long they will take and plan accordingly. If they don’t take as long, great. I simply move on to the next one I had in mind. If they take longer, I don’t panic. I simply prioritize to get the most important things in IF I end up having to cut anything. There have been numerous times I have called an audible, doing something completely different than what I originally had thought, sometimes deciding only 15 minutes beforehand. I usually make sudden changes best on what I feel my students really need to do or learn, but sometimes I change my plan simply because I feel more like doing the different thing more than the original thing in my tentative agenda.
As what I’ve explained shows, flying by the seat of my pants is my preferred “scheduling” method.
The four main reasons why flying by the seat of your pants is the way to go:
- Flexibility – When you fly by the seat of your pants, it is very easy to be flexible, which is a must in many situations. For instance, when I used to have each quarter planned out to a tee, I ran into trouble when things took longer than usual, or when the administration or counselors threw in something last minute that disrupted the regular schedule, or if I just plain forgot about something irregular in the schedule such as a short day, assemblies, etc. It was a headache because I felt a little rushed trying to get everything in and there was little to no room to be flexible AND get everything in. I usually ended up having to cut something out of the schedule. Now, when there is a curveball in the schedule, I don’t panic one bit. I simply adjust without worry. With greater flexibility comes more peace of mind, less worry and less anxiety. I have been a lot less stressed when I’ve decided to basically take it one week or even one day at a time to see what that week or day brings before I make any other plans.
- Less time involved – My first few years of teaching, I would spend a lot of time planning at the expense of what I believe are more constructive pursuits such as curriculum creation, reflection on improving teaching practices and collaboration with teachers on our vision for a more productive year. By not worrying so much about planning throughout the year, I also have more time to grade assignments and complete little projects asked of me by my administration, counselors and district office in addition to fundraising for more technology in my classroom.
- No disappointment – When you have little to nothing planned, there is little room for disappointment. For instance, numerous times when my family has had a vacation planned far in advance, regularly circumstances come up that prevent it, which leads to disappointment, especially from our daughters. When your agenda is blank, however, the opposite can happen – sheer delight! A recent example of this in our lives was during Spring Break. One day we had absolutely nothing planned, and on a whim, we decided to go on a day trip to the Lost City Museum, Valley of Fire State Park, and then down to Las Vegas to visit my wife’s sister. All of us were extremely satisfied with the trip – learning about Native Americans, climbing red rocks and visiting a family member we hadn’t seen for a while.
- No pressure and no rush – Many times, I wish I didn’t have a schedule for the day and think, “At this time, I’ve got to be here, at that time I’ve got to do this . . .” It makes me feel more pressure to get something done in a certain window of time and makes me feel rushed, meaning something might not get done as well or I might not enjoy doing something as much because of that feeling. To me, most of the time a tight schedule is a cruel taskmaster. I love days when there is nothing scheduled so my family and I can do what we really want. One of the best trips I ever took was in college with some of my college roommates when all we had was a destination in mind and no agenda on what we were going to do when we got there. With that as our attitude going in, we took our time and really enjoyed our surroundings, even going on a hike and taking naps on rocks at the trail’s endpoint because we were in no rush to get to the next spot to get everything done on our agenda.
By enumerating these arguments for flying by the seat of your pants, I’m not saying that in order to be happy you must go through life with nothing planned. My main message here is that flexibility is a key to a less stressful, less disappointing life. If you’re one of those that has to have everything planned to a tee, I challenge you to let life happen sometimes and leave a day or two each month to fly by the seat of your pants so you can avoid stress and disappointment and do what you really want to do and relax a little!