A Year of Intentional Teaching Ideas

As a new year begins, we are filled with the inspiration to set resolutions and create new habits.

As I start this new year, I feel compelled to develop an ongoing writing habit about teaching intentionally and have committed to starting a new blog series. I love to share ideas, sources of inspiration, new resources, and the challenges and creative thinking of college faculty across disciplines and contexts. So I woke up one morning with bold plans, inspired to write 52 blog posts this year! 

However…If this past year has taught us anything, it is that we cannot predict, nor control, the future. As I look back on my goals for 2020, (one of which was to create a “more reliable and predictable annual work schedule!”) I can’t help thinking about that old Yiddish proverb, “We plan, God laughs.” 

In this year perhaps more than most, it may be prudent to keep goals manageable and build in room for unexpected changes . 

So I thought about the 80/20 innovation rule in many technology companies. The idea is to spend 80% of our time on core work projects, and reserve 20% for creative projects that we feel drawn to explore personally. Companies such as Google have used such formulas with much success, inspiring the creation of Gmail among other products. Elise Blaha Cripe and other productivity authors recommend a similar 80% rule of giving yourself 20% “white space” for your own thinking, creativity, personal rejuvenation, and room for the unexpected. 

In the end, it may be the idea of Google’s policy rather than strict implementation that is key here. Reminding myself of this past year, it’s probably wise to set, not a numerical goal, but rather a quality goal. Focusing on the intent of carving out what feels like 20% for innovation and creativity may be the most important lesson, even if it isn’t a measurable goal.

Reminding myself of this past year, it’s probably wise to set, not a numerical goal, but rather a quality goal.

Thus, as I embark on this new effort, I will still schedule in deadlines, set and revisit goals, and keep myself accountable. But more importantly, I will aim to focus on useful and meaningful ideas, no matter how many, all while setting aside some reflective time and trying to truly appreciate the white space.

Although many of us are still recovering from the stress that was 2020, it can feel empowering to take some simple steps to try and gain control over what is about to begin. I feel more control by setting intentions for myself – not necessarily measurable goals or resolutions – but rather intentions for how to use my valuable time and create the space to do meaningful work.

I look forward to this new effort and invite anyone to reach out and share ideas, challenges, and questions to make this effort as valuable as possible.