Want to know my favorite way to increase your productivity during the school day?

It’s figuring out what your “domino” task is. What small and simple event will start a chain reaction.

I first learned about this principle when I was working on being more productive and organized at home. Fast-forward a few months and then I read more about it in the book, Atomic Habits.

What is the Domino Effect and How is it Related to Productivity During the School Day?

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to get tasks done like grading. 

Do you ever sit down at your computer with the intention of grading? But, instead, you end up checking your email. Then drift to your personal email. Click on links to a sale and realize that your prep period is over because the bell is ringing? 

I’ve done this too many times to count. For me, the reason that I don’t start on what I’m supposed to be doing is that it seems like something big. I get discouraged thinking will take several prep periods and there is no end in sight. 

Enter in the Domino Effect Theory. For example, I love watching videos where elaborate patterns are made with dominoes when they are knocked over.

I don’t have the patience for spending hours setting something like that up, but I sure love to watch them fall. Now that you have that in your mind, think about what starts that chain reaction. Usually, it’s someone or something lightly tapping that first domino. 

Now, what does this have to do with productivity? We all want to get the most things done with minimal effort. We love our quick wins. So, we’re going to talk about applying this principle to your school day to help you be more productive.

James Clear’s Rules of the Domino Effect

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, explains that there are three rules to the Domino Effect. 

  1. “Start with something you are the most motivated to do. Start with a small behavior and do it consistently.” 

Remember, we’re going for something that is easy. Getting dressed and ready on is a domino for me on the weekend. If I stay in my pajamas, I’m less likely to get anything done for the ENTIRE day.

  1. “Maintain momentum and immediately move to the next task you are motivated to finish.” 

Going back to the weekend example. After getting ready, I go downstairs and make a protein shake and take my vitamins. I’ve just kicked off my day to a great start in less than 15 minutes!

  1. “When in doubt, break things down into smaller chunks.” 

When you think about your morning routine, you probably naturally think of it in chunks. Get dressed, put on your face, eat breakfast, take vitamins, pack lunch, etc… These bite-sized tasks are easier for us to remember and give us the satisfaction that we actually got something done.

What the Domino Effect Looks Like On A School Day

Now that you know the basics of the Domino Effect and the rules to think about when using this, let’s apply it to your classroom.

Can you think of something small that naturally promotes getting things done? For me, it was making copies. Not only that, it was dropping off my copies to the copy center for the next day OR picking up my copies. 

Sorry, those of you who are at a small school with no copy center. It was a beautiful thing with a faculty of 150 and a student body of 3000.

Having those copies in hand or dropping of the masters was a quick win and very satisfying. If nothing else, I was prepared with copies for that day and the next. 

If you cannot think of what your “domino” task is, think about the last day (or prep period) where you were productive. What did that look like? Try to remember what you did and the order that you did them in? Was there one task that got the ball rolling on the others?

There are Good and Bad Dominos When Relating to Productivity During the School Day

Remember my example of attempting to grade that ended in a shopping spree? That was also the Domino Effect. 

By me getting on the computer and checking email, it started a chain reaction.

So how do you prevent this? Being aware is key here. If you know that you are going to get distracted with email, make sure that you don’t have a tab with your email already open. Or, set a boundary to check your email only at certain times of the day. This post here has more on setting boundaries.

In addition, another bad domino for me was checking my teacher box at the beginning of my prep. Our teacher boxes were in the main office, and there were plenty of kind secretaries there ready to make small talk. 

I found that a better time to check my box was before school started–when there was a lot going on in the front office.

In Review

In the end, the Domino Effect can be powerful in increasing your productivity each school day. One small simple task, when immediately followed by another task can help you get things done. 

I challenge you this week to discover what a domino task is for you and work at discovering how it can help you be more productive in your school day.

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