I had an ambitious agenda planned for myself today, and here’s how things played out:
First hour of the workday
- Plan: To grade a stack of quizzes and plan a class.
- Reality: On my way into school, a panicked teacher asked me if I could stop by his class to provide “real world” feedback for a group presentation. His expected guest didn’t work out, so he needed a quick replacement. I graded and planned for 25% of the time I had set aside for the task and then went to the class to provide feedback. [In the class, I met some amazing 9th graders; I also had a chance to briefly discuss queuing theory with the teacher — not a conversation I have every day — since it might be useful to the students’ project.]
Second hour of the workday
- Plan: To meet with a colleague.
- Reality: We started the meeting a few minutes late (thanks to the fact that I was observing the class above), and we were interrupted by a fire drill. [During the fire drill, I bumped into a colleague who is beginning her leadership path. We walked back into the building together and had a chance to have a quick, reflective discussion about a recent experience that she had. I felt like I was able to provide some support to her at a time when she might have needed it.]
Third hour of the workday
- Plan: To meet with a student to discuss sketch-noting.
- Reality: We had this meeting, and in the middle of it, I pulled in another administrator who I thought could help this student develop a role as our school’s Sketchnoter-in-Residence. I literally asked the student to “pitch” her idea to the administrator, and the administrator not only listened to, but also strengthened the proposition. [This was a completely improvised outcome — not what I expected at the start of the meeting. After the student left, I continued talking with my colleague for a long time. We discussed media platforms, writing, and how she might be able to use her interests to connect with educators outside of our school. We had vaguely planned to have this discussion, and it fit in perfectly after our conversation with the previously mentioned student, so we went with it.]
At 5:15, I looked at my schedule and was about to put my head down to try to finish off a few more planned tasks. But then I hesitated and thought about my day. The pattern above continued off and on from 11 – 5. In the moment, getting knocked off task had been frustrating, but in retrospect, I realized that I did my best work in the interruptions, in the unplanned territory. I immediately got up, packed up, went home, fired up the barbecue grill, and invited my family to a completely different kind of weekday dinner. Why?
Because the unplanned part of my day had been so rich, so filled with surprises and good connections, that I decided to let that part win. Not surprisingly, I did my best work — this time, as a husband and a father — there, in the interruption. [ ]