Online Teacher Part II: Tips for Success for Marathoners and Sprinters

Authors present tips for success for online teachers who identify as either marathoners or sprinters when it comes to completing tasks working from home.

North American September 28, 2020

In our last article, we defined the difference between the two productive work styles: Marathoners and Sprinters. You can review this article here (LINK) if you haven’t already identified which category you tend to fall into. Remember, neither is “right” or “wrong,” but it helps to know yourself when managing your own time at home.

Over our years working from home as online educators and administrators, we have found that realizing our own unique ways of approaching work is a great way to personally manage our own productivity styles, while also feeling good about what we are accomplishing as a team. Read the following helpful tips for your personal style, but also take a look at the other viewpoint, as well. It may be that understanding the type of work environment that others need will help to minimize frustrations with coworkers who think differently and need different work environments than you do. This is especially important in an online work environment, where face-to-face interactions between coworkers are limited. In this atmosphere, it can be easy to make unfair assumptions about productivity (or a perceived lack thereof), as a result of not fully understanding a person’s work style. If you identify as a Procrastinator, try following the tips for Marathoners.

Sprinter Marathoner
Sprinters are most successful when they have pre-planned their actions before the deadlines approach, even if no productive work is evident until closer to the deadline. Here are some ways to help yourself a Sprinter:

●      Set personal deadlines for completing steps of projects, work backwards from a deadline.

●      Pre-plan projects to ensure you have the necessary resources available.

●      When working as a team, communicate and be flexible with your plans, to accommodate marathoner coworkers.

●      Be aware that not everyone works this way, and it may make your marathoner coworkers uncomfortable.

●      After you have completed an intensive work period, celebrate the completion of a project. You may need time to recover from an intense work period—plan for that in your schedule and with coworkers.

●      During intensive work times, look after your physical needs (water, food, and fresh air) and remind yourself that you’ll be able to enjoy all the other aspects of your life after the project is complete.

●      Let the people around you (coworkers and family members) know when you are entering a highly-productive period. Remind those in your proximity that your need for uninterrupted space is not a reflection on the health of your personal or professional relationships.

●      Set consistent work hours and plan intensive bursts of work, to ensure you have the focused time to work on the task.

●      Consider your end-of-day productivity. Leaving the more pressing tasks to the end of the day might increase your motivation overall.

●      Be aware that not all job-related tasks can be completed in bursts of intensive focus. Hold yourself accountable for completing the daily tasks in a timely manner, as well.

●      Talk to a marathoner if you are finding your deadlines overwhelming and want to slow down and spread your tasks over a more extended period. They will be able to give you tips for effectively working at their pace, while still being motivated.

Marathoners are most successful when they set up a daily plan with healthy limits for themselves, that includes time to practice self-care. Here are some ways to help yourself if you are a Marathoner:

●      Create a list of a reasonable amount of things to do for the day. Once you are done with what you planned to do, step away from your desk. Tomorrow’s list is for tomorrow.

●      Set weekly intentions for bigger projects that must be completed and have looming deadlines. Break down tasks relating to that more significant goal day by day. In this way, the focus turns from the date of the deadline to the sequence of tasks you must complete to get to the end destination.

●      Be aware that not everyone works the way that you do, and that your focus on completing every minute task as quickly as possible may make Sprinter coworkers uncomfortable.

●      After you have completed what you needed to get done for the day, take time to celebrate your successes. It may be helpful to tell a coworker what you have accomplished or check items off a list as you complete them.

●      Take breaks away from your desk throughout the day. Allow yourself time to connect with God, eat, exercise, and breathe fresh air.

●      Set consistent work hours and hold yourself to them. Prioritize tasks, so that you can comfortably leave less-pressing tasks for the following day, if necessary.

●      When you are on vacation or during other scheduled times away, turn your work notifications off and live in the moment. Don’t let tasks that still must be completed steal the joy from other areas of your life.

●      Be aware of the level to which you are breaking tasks down. Both too many big tasks and too many small tasks can leave a Marathoner feeling overwhelmed.

●      Talk to a Sprinter if you have hit a roadblock in productivity or are feeling overwhelmed. They will remind you that it’s OK to establish time for creative thinking. It may also be helpful to enlist a Sprinter’s help in getting through important work that arises unexpectedly and needs to be completed quickly.

Whether you are a full-time online teacher or are new to working at home, we hope you have found our tried and true tips for managing your workload helpful!


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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