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40 Hour Workweek

Podcast Articles   |   Jan 7, 2024

How I’m planning and setting goals this year

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

How I’m planning and setting goals this year

By Angela Watson

I’m back from my sabbatical and excited to share how I used my time off and what I’m planning for 2024!

In this podcast episode, I’m sharing more about my personal daily art practice in December (which I plan to continue) and time with family over the holidays.

I also discuss my approach for the new year, which is flexible intentionality. I want to be deliberate about where I invest my time while holding plans loosely and staying open to necessary adjustments.

Additionally, you’ll hear what I’m working on for 2024, including:

  • Why I moved the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Online Summit to spring instead of summer and how the event is changing this year
  • My vision for free online trainings throughout the year on Finding Flow Solutions (my curriculum line to help students manage their focused attention, time, and energy). The first workshops are happening in February for middle and high school teachers!
  • The new 40 Hour AI course that will kick off this summer to help you feel confident about streamlining your work via artificial intelligence. Each month throughout the 2024-2025 school year, you’ll spend 30 minutes learning best practices live with me online and 30 minutes afterward experimenting, asking questions, and sharing ideas. Since I’ll have curated the best tools and prompts for you, just this one hour a month of training + experimentation will equip you to trim hours off your workload in a thoughtful, responsible, and ethical way.
  • The new option I’m offering for the Truth for Teachers Daily Encouragement podcast. If you want daily audio messages of encouragement from me, you can pay $3.99/month through Spotify OR you can now make a one-time payment of $19.99. Either way, you’ll get access to the entire podcast feed (going back to September) AND new daily episodes from now until that podcast ends on June 7th, 2024.

I’ve got some awesome guests and topics lined up for you here on the bi-weekly Truth for Teachers podcast for 2024, as well. Listen in to hear more about what I’m focusing on.

Happy New Year!

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Full Transcript

My sabbatical recap

So, I’m back after my sabbatical. You may hear a little change in my voice. I was with my extended family for Christmas, and there were 13 little ones and, one of them had a cold, and I think I caught that cold. And it was well worth it because we just had a great time together.

So my voice is still recovering a little bit, but I feel good. I’m energized and ready to be back after my sabbatical, and I thought I would kick off this first episode of the new year with just a really informal, off-the-cuff, unscripted look at what I’m up to, what I’m planning, how I’m setting goals this year, and what I’m thinking about in terms of moving forward.

I’ll tell you about my sabbatical first. As you know, I take the month of December off from social media and being online as much as I possibly can, particularly in the second half of the month. And, this was something that I started back in 2020. So I’ve had a couple of years now of doing this, and it’s just interesting to see how my focus and my energy levels each sabbatical are so different.

This year when I entered, I was not burned out, which was great. So I didn’t need just rest and recuperation. What I really wanted to do was focus on my art because that’s something that I’ve been getting into more over the last couple of years. I actually double majored when I was in college. I was an early childhood and art double major so art has always been something that I loved. But it really had been sidelined for so many years because I was focusing on work. And this December, I got my supplies organized. I reduced the friction around accessing them. I can get to them easily and put them away easily, which encourages me to make art.

I started working on sketchbooks. So, Laura Horn is an artist that I like. She has an online course called Sketchbook Sanctuary that I took which is about how to have a mixed media sketchbook that you just do right at your dining room table so you’re not cut off from everyone else in the household. And you’re not escaping necessarily to a studio, which is something that she has. And actually, I have a little one too. It’s a little greenhouse shed in the backyard that I use as an art studio.

But this is something where you can just casually make art as breaks. You know? For example, instead of sitting down on the couch and scrolling through Instagram or something, I can just go over to the dining room table, sit down, and work for a few minutes in the sketchbook, and then let it dry while I go off and do whatever else needs to be done — make dinner, answer emails, and come back and work a little more. And that has been a really cool process. I really got into sketchbooks in December.

I also was organizing my house. I just have a number of closets and supplies that were just a mess, and I needed to go through them. So I cleaned up my clothes, and I organized things like the batteries, screws, nails, and you know, miscellaneous things for hanging pictures and art and things like that. So it was the kind of stuff where in the regular rhythm of daily life, getting batteries and spare batteries organized is not exactly a thrilling thing, and it’s not going to be a top priority because I have work that I need to do.

And then when I’m done with that work, I want to enjoy my life as much as possible. I need some downtime. But because I was not working, I was able to sort of focus on these things. And it is so nice now when I need something, to open these closets and know where things are, and to feel like when I’m done with something, I can put it back where it belongs because things are properly labeled and organized and easy to find.

I bought a label maker and ended up returning it. I was like, this is too fussy for me. I’m just handwriting on labels, and my husband commented when I showed him one of the closets, he was like, “It looks like your classroom.” I was like, “Yep. The teacher organization mindset is still there.” So that’s what I was doing during my sabbatical. It was organizing, especially in the first half of the month, and a lot of art.

And then the last week, my husband and I went down to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. That’s where my family is rooted, and the whole family was together, and I got to spend time with all my nieces and nephews for really the first time since COVID. It just seems like every year someone is sick and can’t make it or there’s just always something going on, and we were all together. And it was just such a delight, particularly for me and my husband since we don’t have kids of our own, to get to be in that role — they call me Tia Angie.

So, to be Tia Angie for a while was just such a lovely departure from my normal routines.

What I have planned for 2024

I’m back now in January just feeling energized, ready to go, and I’m excited about doing some new things. So let’s talk about these new things and how I’m planning. My goal this year is really flexible intentionality. I want to be intentional with what I’m focusing on, how I’m using my time, but I also want to be really flexible with it. I want to hold things loosely.

I want to have ideas and goals but be willing to change them as needed, and to make those decisions from a place of purpose. I think of this as my intention carving out the path and flexibility paving the way. So this is not a major change from my prior approach, but sort of holding those two words in my mind, flexible and intentionality, and thinking about how they fit together is going to be a guiding principle for me to make sure that I’m focused on the things that really matter and that also I’m not overcommitting. And that’s important because I have some great stuff planned for you in 2024, but I need to make sure that I’m pacing myself.

40 Hour Teacher Workweek Online Summit this spring

I felt like I did a really good job with that in 2023, of having busier seasons and slower seasons, and I want to make sure that I’m able to continue that. One of the things that I’m doing slightly differently is that last summer, we did the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Online Summit. That was the first time I’d ever done that, and I invited members of 40 Hour to present their best time-saving tips in 15 to 20-minute sessions. And we did that over the summer. It was super well-received.

We had over 10,000 teachers sign up, and the feedback was just overwhelmingly positive. However, it was a lot to manage in the summer because that’s when we kick off the new cohort of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek full year program — the course that runs throughout the school year. So it was sort of a lot, and I decided, why don’t we do it this spring instead?

So it’s going to be in early April this year. And I’m going to split up elementary and secondary. The way that it’s going to work is it will be sort of a two-day event. On a Friday evening, I’m going to give a longer keynote — like a 90-minute sort of kickoff and really do a deep dive into a topic with you all.

Then Saturday morning, into the afternoon, we’ll have the teacher sessions. So this will be free to attend just like it was last time, or you can purchase the recordings. And the recordings will be part of the 40 Hour Grad program too. So if you’re a graduate and you’re in the grad program, you’ll have access to those recordings. I’ll share more about that as the time gets closer, but that timeline got moved up basically because the summit was something that I did in the summertime.

This time, it’s going to be happening in the spring. We’ve already accepted the proposals at this point. So I already know what the session topics are going to be. It’s bizarre to me to know that the first week of January when I think of this as a summer event. But oh my gosh, it’s going to be so good! So, that’s gonna be happening in the spring.

Free online Finding Flow trainings

But I actually have something coming up even sooner than that. So these next couple of months are going to be really busy. I will be doing free live online trainings on Finding Flow Solutions, which is my new curriculum line to help students focus their attention, to concentrate, to manage their time, and to stay organized. It’s the neuroscience behind learning.

So if you have students who are not turning in work on time, they’re not engaged, they want everything to be fun, and they don’t want to buckle down and focus on the things that they need to do and concentrate, or if their attention spans are short, these resources are designed to help for that.

I started doing workshops on Finding Flow Solutions in schools this past fall, and I love it. It’s just really cool because a lot of times when you go to a workshop, you’re taught how to do something, but then you still have to figure out you’re going to implement this with your students. And because this is a ready-to-use curriculum that I just give to participants of the workshops, they have the tools already, so they’re not scrambling to remember, “Okay, how do I explain this, or what do I do next, or what order?”

The way the curriculum works is for middle and high school students right now. There’s a student journal, and there’s an interactive PowerPoint. And so you just show the slideshow to your students, basically, and it guides you through each activity and everything that you’re going to say to students. It has videos and audio embedded in it. It teaches the lesson for you and guides you through the entire thing. And then the student journal is their practice activities and reflections and things like that.

So we do some of those in the workshop. Teachers get to experience it too because these are all things that we need help with too, right? We also have trouble just focusing and getting our work done. We also get distracted and don’t manage our time well. This is something that is true for all humans, not just for kids and not just for this new generation. It’s something we all struggle with. So it was really fun to do it with the teachers and I could see the looks on their faces when they imagined doing this with their students. Like, each time that we did an activity there, they could see the moments that they were having, they were picturing the moments their students were having. I’m like, Oh my gosh, this is gonna be so good. They’re gonna get so much out of this. So, that was really fun.

And I was thinking, I really wanna do this with more people because not every school can afford to bring me out to do that. I was thinking, You know what? I should do this online. I should totally do this online. It’s not gonna be the same. But I can create an interactive workshop, online. One for high school teachers and one for middle school teachers.

So the idea is that you attend this free online training. It’s probably gonna be pretty short, maybe 90 minutes or something like that. The one for high school teachers is gonna be February 3rd, and the one for middle school teachers is gonna be February 10th. And replays will be available of it. And then you will feel like you understand the basics of the neuroscience behind focused attention and time management and things like that to translate to your students, and you’ll be equipped to go in and start using the curriculum.

Each unit is only $12, so you can just buy 1 unit that has 10 lessons. You can buy the whole bundle or just use the free unit. The free unit is called Foundations of Flow, and it introduces Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory to both middle and high school students. So you can come to the training. You can learn more about this stuff and then use that free unit with your students. The full curriculum and free units are available here.

I’m excited about it because, like I said, it’s just really fun for me to do, and it’s something I’m super passionate about. The high school curriculum is completely done now, and middle school is mostly done. There are a couple more units that are releasing, and they’ll be finished by March 2024. Then I’m going to start working on the elementary stuff. I know elementary teachers have been waiting for this for quite a while; we’re going to start releasing that in April.

So that’s going to be a big focus of my year. I will be doing that not just this February, but I will do one over the summer as well and then next fall. This is something that is probably going to be my biggest focus for 2024. I really want to show you how to use these resources and teach students about flow theory, metacognition, and all those kinds of things. Self-advocacy–that’s another thing that I think is so important for kids to know how to understand their own needs, get their own needs met, communicate about their needs, and take initiative.

And you won’t have to buy the curriculum to attend the workshop. However, I have made it intentionally affordable, and it will save you so many hours in lesson planning and resource creation that I hope you will get your school to pay for it or purchase it yourself and support my work. So I really appreciate your interest in that and your enthusiasm for this, too that you all have been showing.

40 Hour AI (Artificial Intelligence)

So one other big thing that I’m planning for 2024 is a new 40 Hour Teacher Workweek course called 40 Hour AI, and AI, of course, stands for artificial intelligence. And here’s what I’m thinking about this.

If you invest one hour each month next school year, you will feel confident using AI to teach more effectively and efficiently. That’s the goal. There are a lot of trainings out there for teachers on AI. This one is gonna be specifically on how you can use it to trim hours off your workweek. So it’s all about teacher time-saving!

This is not about using it with students in the classroom. There are lots of great trainings on that out there or any other aspect. There are so many aspects of AI. This is purely on saving you time. And what I hear most from teachers is that they don’t have time to experiment with AI.

It is evolving so quickly. There are so many new AI power tools for educators. They don’t know where to start. And I also hear that folks try it out and then they aren’t happy with the results. It’s not actually saving them time, and they’re like, This is crap. I should have just written it from scratch myself.

And the thing that I know myself from having used a lot of different AI tools is that it does take time to experiment. You do have to know how to refine your prompts. You have to know which tools to use for which tasks and, when do teachers have time to do that? So that’s what I want to build in the time for.

I want to be your trusted guide through the world of generative AI. I am not going to teach you every tool and every possibility. I am going to give you the best ideas that I have curated for saving you time. So in the 40 Hour AI course, each month, there’s going to be a 30-minute live online training that I conduct on how to use AI to save time on that month’s focus topic. So in the full year program, we spend one month on lesson planning, one on grading.

There will be a 30-minute live online supplementary training on AI. So how would we save time grading with AI. And then after the 30-minute training, you can log off or you can stick around and try out the ideas right away. I will stay online for you to ask questions and get more assistance with tasks related to your specific teaching context. So the idea is that you can spend that 30 minutes learning.

That’s all it takes, 30 minutes a month, and then dedicate that extra 30 minutes to actually experimenting if you want to. So that would be just 1 hour a month. And I think you will walk away feeling like, Okay, I understand what’s out there. I understand what can be done, and I feel confident in this without it taking over my life because I don’t want AI to be the center of my teaching or the center of my world.

I just want to know how it can be useful for me, how it can improve my teaching, how it can accelerate my tasks and reduce my workload. So that’s what I really want to teach you. That’s something that I’m gonna be working on to release this summer. It will be in conjunction with the 40 Hour full year program. In fact, if you’ve never joined the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek full year program, the AI course will be included at no cost. It will be an add-on for that, or you can just purchase the AI course separately if you want that.

My overall vision for the year

So a lot of the stuff that I’m going to be doing between now and this summer is the Finding Flow solutions trainings, plus I have to finish the curriculum units. We’ve got the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Online Summit happening in April, and then we’re gonna have this summer, the next 40 Hour Full Year course kickoff and 40 Hour AI. So the front half of the year for me is definitely loaded up with some really good stuff!

The last thing that I am planning on for 2024 is — I feel like I’ve got on the podcast and talked about this so many times and it’s still not happening — but I still want to offer healing nature retreats for educators. And I hope to do the very first one locally in the Poconos in Pennsylvania; it’s the eastern part of Pennsylvania. It’s about two hours from Philly and two hours from NYC. I hope to do one this year at least and then start offering more in 2025. My vision there is to offer an affordable, low-key getaway within easy driving distance for people, which is why I want to offer them eventually in different locations.

But I’ll start with my own area that I know best. I’d like to offer an easy hike to my favorite waterfall, a yoga class with my favorite yoga teacher, a meditation class, art therapy, sound bath therapy, all as optional included activities. This has been a dream of mine for a really long time, but there’s a steep learning curve. There’s a lot of logistics to figure out. So I want to try just one locally this year and then expand in 2025.

So we’ll see because I already told you how much I have front-loaded for the first half of this year, and that retreat should probably be in summer, but maybe it’ll be in the fall. Stay tuned for that as it’s still on my radar. That’s my point. That’s where I’m at as we head into 2024.

What’s new for the podcast in 2024

I also have some fantastic podcast guests lined up for you. I’m going to continue releasing the new episodes here biweekly, and the Truth For Teachers daily encouragement podcast will also be continuing through June 7th — that’s going to be the last day. So that’s the podcast that you can subscribe to for $3.99 a month through Spotify, where you get a new message of encouragement every weekday.

Also, by popular demand, I have a one-time payment option for people who don’t like having the $3.99 a month or don’t want go through Spotify — they just want to pay one time upfront to me. I’ll put a link for that in the show notes too. If you want to get those episodes, as I said, I’m only doing it for the school year and it will be ending in June.

If you want to have those daily encouraging messages from now through June, you have the option to get that. I’m gonna keep working on that podcast just for a little boost of encouragement and motivation each weekday. Subscribe to the Daily Encouragement Podcast here for $3.99/month or a one-time payment of $19.99 for all episodes now through June 7, 2024.

Your takeaway truth for the week ahead is a callback to my theme of flexible intentionality, and it’s this: as we step into the new year, remember that intentions carve the path, and flexibility paves the way.

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Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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