Online Teacher Part I: Marathoner or Sprinter

An Adventist educator presents the two different work styles normally exhibited in online teachers and provides characteritics to identify your style.

North American September 21, 2020

As online teachers and administrators, we have realized over the years that we and our coworkers have very different ways of accomplishing tasks and getting work done. The following is a series of two articles that will help you identify what type of worker you are, and how you can most effectively optimize your work schedule, while also having a life away from your desk.

Online teaching is very different than our traditional views of teaching in a classroom. Deadlines still loom, and students must still be served, but when you work from home you are your own manager. Thus, in a remote work environment it becomes very important early on to identify exactly what your work patterns are, how they serve you, and how they impact those you work with most closely. If you know yourself, you will be better able to manage your time effectively and also understand why a particular type of work environment meets your needs as a professional. In Better than Before (2015), Gretchen Rubin identifies two main types of productive workers: Sprinters and Marathoners. While the goal of finishing the race (completing the task or project) might be the same, Sprinters and Marathoners’ processes are very different. In order to set up your ideal work environment, consider the following:

Which type of worker are you?

Sprinters Marathoners
●      Work best in quick bursts of intense effort.

●      Enjoy working with the pressure of a close deadline.

●      Do not enjoy slogging through the daily grind of low-pressure tasks because they recognize that their productivity will go down, resulting in the task taking longer than necessary.

●      Tend to work close to deadlines in order to create a high-stakes work environment.

●      May follow less consistent work hours, but are able to work for long periods of time without a break in focus when deadlines are approaching.

●      Have their most clear and creative breakthroughs close to the deadline, and are comfortable with this risk.

●      Are prone to frustration when others view their work style as procrastination, rather than a valid way of approaching a project.

●      Are impressed by marathoners’ ability to self-motivate without the need for external pressure.

●      Frustrate marathoners by appearing to delay action until well after marathoners feel the project should have been done.

●      Work best when the deadlines are far in the future and work tasks can be distributed evenly.

●      Dislike looming deadlines.

●      Enjoy a controlled work environment where they are given the opportunity to complete tasks well ahead of time.

●      Do not enjoy the adrenaline of a last-minute deadline and will go to great lengths to avoid that feeling.

●      Can become overwhelmed easily when multiple tasks or deadlines are close at hand.

●      Are able to work consistent hours, but require breaks in between work.

●      Have their most creative breakthroughs when they have time to contemplate and revise.

●      Are prone to inflexible thinking when their action plan is disrupted.

●      Will continue working until well after enough is enough, as long as there are tasks to complete.

●      Are impressed with sprinters’ capacity to work through last-minute deadlines without feeling negative stress.

●      Frustrate sprinters by completing tasks early, causing coworkers to feel they are behind, even when the deadline has not yet arrived.

Note that both sprinters and marathoners feel good about their work styles and are highly productive. Procrastinators, on the other hand, do not feel good about their capacity to accomplish tasks. Their work style is not a choice but is instead a result of poor management. Typically, procrastinators are marathoners who haven’t recognized their full working potential and may be letting anxiety or overwhelm rule their productivity.

If you fall into procrastinator work habits, schedules are an excellent support to explore. Set regular deadlines and do only that task during the scheduled time. Not only do schedules help move you through tasks you are feeling anxious about, but they also set boundaries on work time vs. the rest of your life.


Erin Sutherland

Erin, BA in Geography, PDPP in Secondary Education, is the Vice-Principal of West Coast Adventist School DL and the Encounter Teacher for Grades 7-12. She has worked in the world of online education since 2012.

Melanie Kartik

Melanie, BSc, is principal of West Coast Adventist School, an online K-12 school based in Abbotsford, BC, Canada. She is currently working on completing her Masters of Curriculum & Instruction from Andrews University.

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