The SLP’s Productivity Secret

productivity hacks for slps; fighting slp burnout

When I first started working as an SLP, I was frantically running around the first week of school, really stressed out because I had so much to do and I was really anxious to get my schedule started.

Since I’ve started in 2004, I’ve changed my tune because I found that I was wasting a lot of energy stressing out.

I’m going to tell you a little story that you may have heard before. I read this in Stephen Covey’s book, First Things First.

Covey talks about how he went to a presentation that really made an impact on him. The presenter started with an empty jar. He filled it with big rocks until he couldn’t fit any more in. He asked the audience if the jar was full, and many of them said that it was.

But then he took some smaller pebbles and poured them in. The pebbles filled in the space between the big rocks. He asked if the jar was full…and some thought it was…but then he took some sand and poured it in to the jar, and it filled in more of the space between the pebbles and the rocks.

The members of the audience thought that it must be full. But then the presenter got some water and poured it in. “Now it’s full,” he said.

Each time the members of the audience though nothing else could fit, he managed to find space for more when things were done right.

What was his point?

If he had put the smaller items in first, the big rocks never would have fit. But when he put the big rocks in first, the smaller items somehow fit around them.

Those “big rocks” are like the important priorities in our lives. The “must do” items.  The rest are the smaller priorities that you can fit in around the bigger, more important ones.

The secret to productivity is finding your big rocks.

I talk a little bit about one of the ways I prioritize what I do with my students in therapy in this free video training (hint: sometimes it even means saying, “No” to my colleagues who have asked me to work on something with the students).


When we start the school year, we have a lot to get done. Many times we find that other people in our lives like to add to this list. Some of the tasks expected of us are important, and sometimes they aren’t.

Sometimes we obsess about little details or things we think we “need” to be doing, or that we feel we should be doing…when maybe they aren’t all that important.

The key to starting your school year right is choosing your “big rocks”. Identify those key priorities for your first week, and get those things done. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get to those smaller tasks that aren’t as critical.

And don’t let other people who don’t understand your job push you in to time-wasting activities when at all possible (no matter how hard to try, you might not be able to get out of all of them-but you can start working on eliminating the ones you can).

Just in case you were wondering, here were my big rocks for the first school day:

-Get up and run before work with Bailey (my yellow lab)

-Talk to my administrators about my schedule

-Schedule a meeting with the other SLPs to discuss caseload (there are 3 of us total)

-Attend mandatory staff meetings (they went easy on us this year-it only took an hour!)

-Do homework with my stepdaughter

-Hang out with hubby and stepdaughter

-Create therapy attendance log. 

Notice that although this is a “work-heavy” list, all of the items aren’t about work.  This is about balance, not just checking things off the list.

You’ll be surprised that once you find what’s most important, those smaller “to-do” items get done too. And if when they don’t, it’s not as big of a deal as you thought.

This next month, I’ll be posting regular productivity hacks for SLPs that can help you get your year started right.

The first thing you can do right away is to pick those big rocks.

You can stay tuned for more beginning of the year productivity hacks this next month.

To join my mailing list to get regular productivity hacks and language therapy ideas delivered straight to your inbox, click the button in the image below

You’ll also get this free video training that will show you how to select target vocabulary in therapy.

tier 2 vocabulary; school speech therapy; language therapy techniques



2 Responses to “The SLP’s Productivity Secret

  • I would like to join your website and receive emails regarding the topics you list. Have you posted on pragmatics and middle school and high school students? I would be interested in the evaluation tools and therapy approach you use.

    Thank you

    • Thank you for the message. I’ve manually added you to the email list. If I get enough interest I will be adding some resources on pragmatics.

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