ProductivityThe admin side of teaching

How to get more out of your planning time

Raise your hand if you love the admin side of your teaching job?  …  No?  While I LOVE researching new ideas & teaching, all the other admin stuff that comes with running my own business?  Not so much.

In September, I opted to finally extend my screen in an effort to be more efficient when I am doing computer work.  My husband has used multiple screens at work for years and had suggested it might help me out as well.  He was right!

My Office
My Office

Why extend my work space?

Space can be at a premium depending on the size of your desk or office area.  Trust me when I say that this will be space well spent.  (Oh, I love a good pun.  Especially when it’s true!)  Here are my top reasons for using 2 screens.

  • Reduce time jumping between windows:  If  you are like me, it’s pretty common to have multiple programs & browser windows open at the same time.  While ALT+Tab doesn’t take much time, it adds up over the course of the planning session.  Especially when you need to scroll through multiple tabs. I typically have the following programs open during any office session.
    • Songza … currently “Dancing into Autumn”for ambiance, but great tool for being introduced to new music.
    • YouTube … most weeks I include videos for my students to watch, whether they are concepts or songs they are working on
    • Lesson plans … I use multiple method books because what works for one student doesn’t necessarily work for the next.  And, seriously, who wants to break down a song & its available resources more than once?  Not me.
    • Planboard … check “Lessons Wherever You Are” for why I am such a huge fan of this online app.
    • Research tabs … everything from new sheet music & background info for students or myself.
  • Easily stay focused on the current task:  This was an unexpected benefit.  Before, as I cycled through the windows I would either get frustrated I had once again passed the window I wanted or decide that I really ‘needed’ to focus on an article rather than just moving on.
  • Moving between screens just got a whole lot easier:
    • Need to move text?  Highlight text on one screen.  Hold the selection with the mouse & move it to the next screen.  Done!  If you want to copy & paste … just press CTRL+C before moving that mouse.
    • Want to open a new tab in your browser but move it over to the other monitor?  Open a new tab, hold it while moving it to the next screen.  Boom!  A new browser tab (or window) opens up.  The day I accidentally found this out, well it was a game changer!
    • Done working with a program for the moment, but know you’ll need it pretty soon?  Move it to the screen that is further away so you aren’t distracted.  That way you aren’t wasting time waiting for a program to open when you really need it.
  • Easy on the eyes:  Another unexpected benefit.  I have the screens set back to the far side of my desk.  With an external keyboard hooked up, I place my student planning binder in between the screen & keyboard.  This lets me use my desk space most efficiently & protects my eyes from strain.

You sold me.  Now what?

Extending your screen to another monitor is incredibly easy.  There are many tutorials online … which I was prepared to read through.  Turns out I didn’t really need to do much research or invest much time to get set up (less than 30 minutes including research).


  • An extra computer monitor
  • Cord to plug it into a computer (comes with monitor)
  • Monitor power cord (comes with monitor)


  1. Place the monitors where you want them.  Take the time to experiment with where it works best for you.  This honestly was one of the longest parts of the process.
  2. Plug in the monitor to your computer & grounded serge protector.  Chances are there will only be one spot that fits the monitor cord, whether that is your laptop or computer.  It’s just a matter of matching the plugs.
  3. Change your screen settings.  Your computer may pop up with a box on its own which mine did, but if it doesn’t no worries.  I’ll speak to Windows settings since it is what I have.
    • Right click anywhere on the screen.
    • Select “Screen Resolution”. Screen Resolution Window
    • Select the #2 Screen then choose to “Extend these Displays” from the Multiple displays section.
    • Press “Apply” & try it out!
  4. Test it out!  Does it feel intuitive & easy to move between the screens?
    • I discovered quickly that I could only move windows to the left.  This was rather annoying when I had no choice to move a tab off into the ether & it would seem to jump through the air only to appear to the right.  Needless to say as Star Trek as it appeared, it was NOT intuitive.  Thankfully, it is a simple fix of changing which monitor is the main screen with a simple click of a button..

Get ready to see your mouse & keyboard fly!

Once you get into a rhythm of using 2 screens a whole new world opens up.  There are some simple keyboard & mouse shortcuts that take things from fast & turbo, some which I’ve mentioned above.

  • Want to pause a song?  Fling the mouse over to the Songza tab & press the space bar. No need to click.
  • Want to move the current window over within the monitor?  Press WIN+left or right buttons.  Press them again so that it moves over to the other monitor.

Feel free to check out these keyboard shortcuts for Windows 7 or Windows 8 to make the most of your office time.

What are your top tech productivity tips?

We all have our ways of making the most of our time.  I would love to hear what yours are!

3 thoughts on “How to get more out of your planning time

  1. My husband has an extended screen set up for as long as I can remember. I would LOVE to have that but my workspace is really small. My iMac takes up my entire desk (corner desk) 🙁 I would love to be able to have the option for an extended screen!

    1. Hi, Jennifer! First, I loved your presentation at MEC yesterday. There were so many great ideas to try out!
      In terms of a duo screen set up in your office, would it be possible to mount another screen? I have mine side by side, but there are other setups. Having a screen on a swivel arm would give more flexibility (your monitor could be next to the iMac, but off the desk area) or mounting the second screen above your iMac would also save on desktop space. I hope one of these two options could work for your workspace!

      1. I have thought about a mount set up but my set up is in an awkward corner. I’ll definitely have to reconsider it. I have an “extra” monitor just lying around, might as well use it! 🙂

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