Business Lessons Your Third Grade Teacher Taught You

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When you have absolutely too much on your plate, you should just “chunk it,” not throw it all away and say forget it (which is also an option). Instead, you should prioritize what’s on your plate and break it up into manageable projects and tasks. If you’re not sure how to do this, think back to third grade. You probably learned great strategies on prioritizing and goal attainment without even realizing it.

In third grade (for the old schoolers), there was a focus on learning it until you knew it. There was no introducing a concept and then reviewing it at another time when you felt better about it – absolutely not. You received your vocabulary list or multiplication facts, and your class kept going over it until everyone got it. Your teacher probably even checked by test, game or individual interview to be sure that no child was left behind.

Do you remember how those third grade learning goals were accomplished? Your teacher used the four P’s: Planning, Prioritizing, Performing & Prudence.

Planning: For each subject, there was a plan or goal set for what would be learned.

Prioritizing: The class focused on one learning goal at time – not integration of skills.

Performing: The teacher facilitated a variety of activities to help students gain knowledge.

Prudence: Multiple methods of evaluation were employed to ensure that each child got it.


The four P’s can most certainly be applied in a business setting as well. Here’s an example of how you can use the four P’s to accomplish more every single day:

For each work week, make a plan. Pick a day of the week, maybe Friday, to plan. Make a list of everything that you need to complete, everything that is incomplete, and random but sometimes necessary activities that will sabotage your day (emails, phone calls, lunch, co-workers).

Rank those activities from most important to least important. Then rank them again by most time-consuming to least time-consuming. Finally, rank them once more more time from favorite activity to “I really hate doing this.”

Make a daily schedule that allows 5, 15, 30, or 60 minute increments to work on activities. Shorter activities, 5 – 30 minute activities, should be completed in one sitting. Break more complex projects down into 60-minute increments. Do only one activity at a time – no multi-tasking.

Plan a start-of-the-day and end-of-the-day check. At the beginning of the day, review your schedule and write down what you plan to accomplish. At the end of the day, highlight what you didn’t complete and move it to the next day’s schedule.

Once you know how to make your plan, all that’s left is to stick to it. Consider these tips to help you get the most out of your day:

  • Start your day with the things that you absolutely prefer not to do, and get them done and out the way.
  • Email is not meant to be the focus of your work day. (This like talking during class).
  • Five to 15-minute tasks are the little things that you probably forget to deal with.
  • Phone calls, interacting with co-workers, breaks and lunch are important (like recess), but plan them.
  • Learn to estimate how much time it takes to complete major projects.
  • Schedule no more than four to five hours total of 30 and 60-minute projects per day.

On the days when you have multiple tasks to complete and you’re just not sure how to get it done, remember third grade. It was the foundation for moving on to the big kid classes. You most certainly learned some things that helped you to be successful in school and can help you to find daily success at work (and home). Remember the four P’s and the importance of breaking things down into manageable tasks. Most importantly, thank your third grade teacher because she’s the reason you can say with confidence, “I’m gonna chunk this!”


Tommeka Semien is a non-profit professional, mom of three and two extras, operator of LN2 Consulting, freelance writer and blogger at www.luckyno2.com


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