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How Do You Balance Life And Work To Fit In All The Things That You Want?

Time Management Strategies1So I’ve really been struggling with this lately….who else out there has soooo many things that they want to do, but just can’t seem to fit them all in?

I’ve read quite a bit about time management and ‘making’ more time to fit in everything I want.  I’ve also read articles that ditch the concept of creating more time; after all there is only 24 hours in a day.  But for me, it’s how can I better juggle my time to fit it in not only what I need to, but also what I want???  I really want that good balance of life and work.

Some Of The Challenges That Pull At A Teacher’s Time

I think being a teacher has some unique challenges when it comes to juggling time.  There are many parts of the profession that pull at you and require your attention, and managing all of these aspects can be difficult and at times very frustrating.

Some of the many things that can challenge your time include:

  • Planning the curriculum/lessons for the year/term/week/day;
  • Researching better ways to engage kids and get them motivated about learning;
  • Assessing student learning and writing reports;
  • Meeting with parents to discuss their child’s development;
  • Creating an engaging learning space that kids will want to spend the day in;
  • Writing individual education/behaviour plans for the kids that have special needs and /or challenges;
  • Attending professional development opportunities; and
  • Networking and collaborating with other teachers.

And I’m sure that you can probably think of many more tasks that ‘pull’ at your time.  Now if you’re not a teacher, you’re probably thinking….geez that’s tough it just sounds like any normal job.  The difference is that between the hours of about 8:40am – 3:20pm, we are teaching and engaging with our students and pushing them to be the best that they can be.  So…all of these other things that pull at us need to happen outside of these hours.

Unless you want to spend your whole life living and breathing being a teacher 24/7 (which by the way is not healthy and I have written about having some ‘away time’ so that you don’t get stressed and suffer from burnout), then I think it’s important to really come up with some useful strategies for juggling all of these hats.

So you may be thinking that I’m going to give you a heap of strategies to try? Nope…sorry to disappoint, but I need some help on this too.  I have a couple of things that I do that help me, but I really wanted to get a bit of a dialogue going with you guys, so that you could share with me (and all the other readers) what works for you.

Look there’s plenty of blogs out there that talk about this kind of thing and trust me I’ve read them, but they aren’t from a teacher’s perspective.  I think that many of you probably have some great ideas that could work for me, but these ideas could also really work for you too.

Time Management Strategies

So I’ll start.  I’m going to share with you my top 2 strategies for juggling my time so that I can fit in not only my teaching/school stuff, but also stuff for myself.

1. Set A Weekday Work Schedule

I find that when I allocate set times to certain tasks, then I am much more productive.  This probably sounds very anal, but I don’t care it works for me.  I have a set time when I am at school and working at my job.  I find that if I start to bring work home, then I never have away time.  So I try and have set hours at school so that it doesn’t spill over too much into my personal time.

I normally try to arrive no later than 8am (generally more like 7:30am), and stay in the afternoon until about 5pm.  Hey don’t get me wrong, if these were the only hours I worked on teaching I’d be laughing.  But by having this very structured and dedicated schedule, I find that I have to do less in the evenings and on weekends.

Then I actually allocate times for before and after school for particular jobs.  For instance, I use the first 30minutes after the school day finishes to ensure that I have everything set up and ready to go for the next day.  I’m usually pretty tired straight after school, so I don’t want anything too hard to do when the kids leave for the day.  Because I’m already set up the day before for the next day, when I arrive in the morning I have that time to do my ‘serious’ thinking.  It’s usually always quiet, I am most alert and I have at a minimum of 30minutes of uninterrupted time.  This is usually when I do my planning.  And it’s surprising how much you can get done in half an hour for 5 days a week, when you’re alert and there are no interruptions.

2. Use To Do Lists

Okay boring I suppose, but having a To Do List really works for me.  I’ve played around a fair amount with how to do these as I’ve found that if I have too many things on the list, then it becomes overwhelming and I tend to do none of what’s on my list.

I usually only put my top 3 priorities on the list for each day.  This way there’s a fair chance that I’ll succeed and it helps me to really focus in on what are the most important things that need to be done in a day.

I find that being a teacher there is always something that can be done and if I don’t prioritise to do the most important things, then I’ll never have any down time.

As you can see my strategies aren’t anything fantastic, and so I’m really after some other different ideas that will help me take control so that I can fit everything in.

Help Me Out…What Are Your Best Ways To Manage Time?

So now it’s over to you. Please share with us your tips/s for juggling your everyday tasks.  Let’s have a chat about why these tips work for you.  Then I’d love to put all of our ideas together in a downloadable PDF that we can keep to refer to when we need some inspiration (or to help us out if we begin to feel overwhelmed).  So hit us with your fabulous ideas!!!

Mel

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12 Responses to How Do You Balance Life And Work To Fit In All The Things That You Want?

  1. Thanks for your tips!
    I totally agree, planning ahead saves so much time. I like your idea to plan for the next day immediately after the previous day- because as soon as the kids leave is when I usually collapse into my chair and stare into space for 5-10 minutes! I always do it before I go home, you feel so good knowing the next day is sorted.

    I started planning specific marking and jobs for specific breaks in my day last year, and sort of saw it as non negotiable. That meant I forced myself to mark spelling books at the same time every week, meaning the kids knew not to pack books etc away but bring to my desk. I think it made me get through marking and grading more effectively.
    I’d also recommend thinking about tiny things which can save time. Eg my kids never close their exercise books, or any workbook. It goes open on the floor, meaning I never have to open up and find their page. That’s a good timesaver- and makes life easier.
    There is always so much to do in our job,I think part of winning the battle is knowing that your to do list will never be finished. Another part is prioritising things which are important but not urgent, like exercise and sleep. Actually I’m a better teacher when im doing these things, because I feel better. So it’s being kind to my whole class if I keep up with them!

  2. My most productive time is in the morning so I go in early each day (6:30 – 6:45) for an 8:10 start time. But, I run out the door the first second I can at 3:10. I am going to go in later on Fridays (7:30) so that it’s a shorter day.

    My goal this year is to work smarter rather than harder. Less chatting at work and pushing through lunch and prep time being extremely productive. I need to bring less home. I don’t mind some busy work while watching movies, but that needs to be the exception rather than the rule.

    Another thing that I find helpful is to make a big Sunday dinner. While it’s cooking I prep stuff for a crockpot meal for Monday nights (staff meeting day). This starts out my week with two good meals and lots of leftovers for lunch at work. Gets the week out to a good start from a food standpoint.

    Thanks to everyone for their helpful hints!

  3. […] So I wanted to put together a quick, encouraging reference guide for you all that shares some tips you can use that may help you manage your time as a teacher.  A couple of months ago I wrote about how I was plagued with this very thing….I couldn’t seem to fit in all the things that I wanted and needed to do.  So I asked for your expert help, and a number of you shared with us some eye-opening tips for managing time. […]

  4. Hey Mel,
    Here is my biggest thing that I need to be better at, “JUST SAY NO!” I am currently doing all the things on your list as well as organising the boys touch team to play 2 games and a gala day (not coaching though), organising the Stage 2 and 3 classes to be on Mathletics, organising a presentation on using DAily 5 and Cafe in my room, taking on a student teacher and finding 30 sets of headphones for the comp lab at a reasonable price. Did I JUST SAY NO! I did not, however I have made the promise to myself that I will….try really hard…..to say NO to the next organise this request. We have to know our limits and all this organising is now impinging on my quality planning time, which is now cutting into my family time. So my advice scale back on the less important things….JUST SAY NO!
    Tania
    Mrs Poultney’s Ponderings

    • Hey Tania,

      You hit the nail on the head….that is soooo true. I’m not sure if this is a trait of teachers (or maybe Mum’s), but if I’m asked to take on something at work I so rarely say no. I’m surprised you have any time at all with all of those extra duties you’re taking on. I’ll send you my resolve next time someone asks….you can do it….SAY NO 🙂

  5. I do a lot of the same things, except I don’t come early or stay late. First thing for me is to make to do lists every day, including things I need to do at home. I then prioritize so if everything doesn’t get done, the most important still have and I don’t have to feel bad.
    When I lesson plan, which I try to do at least two weeks at a time (so far unit planning hasn’t been within my grasp, but that’s ideal), I plan EVERYTHING from do nows (at least the skill they will do) and homework and decide which assignments will be graded. One of their grades is always a weekly assessment so it makes it easy to decide which homework or classwork assignments to grade. I haven’t decided if it’s lazy or not but I try to grade as many multiple choice assignments so they can be done quickly or by students!
    I make my copies for the whole week on my planning on Fridays and organize them in day of the week/grade level folders. I sort the work and use a binder clip labeled with “do now”, “guided practice”, “independent practice”, and homework” in each folder. It takes me about an hour of planning to do this for three classes for the whole week so that leaves me with three planning periods during the week to use to plan or grade.
    On the homefront, I plan my meals and grocery shop for the week so I already know what I am cooking, what I need and how long it will take in the evening. I go to the next level and plan the easiest meals on the days I go to the gym.
    This is probably more detailed than most people would like, but it’s the only way I have been able to have time for my son and family. I still usually end up lesson planning on the weekends because I need to differentiate A LOT but this is the best I have come up with so far!

    • Hey Andrea,

      Well I’m glad I’m not the only one who relies heavily on To Do Lists. That’s a good idea with having a list for home and for work, I usually only do one for work. Thanks for sharing how you manage your household duties as well. For a very long time I have struggled with balancing all of the tasks that I need to do at home. It’s only been in the last few weeks that I’ve really found something that works for me. I now get all of my groceries delivered straight to my door, the bread, milk, veggies and meat once a week. This is a set order so that it just comes and I don’t need to think about it. Then the remainder of the groceries I do a monster online shop once a month that also gets delivered. It took a little bit of time to make it all work, but now that it does it’s so awesome and it feels like I have so much more time!!!

      Thanks for sharing your great ideas!

      • Oh man I never thought of having groceries delivered! That would save me and hour and a half `of grocery shopping! Thanks! 🙂

  6. Cutting down on grading definitely helps. I also have a schedule in which they turn in their notebooks so it’s only three students a day. I also do a lot of effort and completeness grades. I’ll look for specific things in the work (rubrics really help for this). Another grade saver is that i do a lot of grading in 1-1 conferences. while the students are completing independent work, i call them up to my desk, read their work and give them a grade. It also means they get immediate feedback. To-do lists are essential to me. Also having fully developed units. I remember last year (my first full year) I was planning and grading every night. I also make relaxation necessary. I always have a for fun book I’m reading. I schedule gym time. I find staying quite late one day a week really helps. I put on my headphones and go to work.

    • Hey Maggie,

      Thanks so much for sharing your ideas. I like the idea of the 1-1 conference and giving immediate feedback to students. I think sometimes I forget that feedback doesn’t always need to be formal…

      It sounds like you’ve found a pretty good balance and I’m glad to hear you have time for yourself, so very important!

  7. Your post hit super close to home! I feel the burden of our monumental job as a teachers all the time. The job is never done, and like you said, there’s always more you could do. All of your tips are great! I try to do all of those things.

    On Thurs and Fri I set aside time to stay a little later after school to get caught up and get ready for next week. This allows me to not take too much home on the weekend. At school, I can get everything done in 1-2 hours, but at home it will inevitably take five!

    I also try to only grade the minimum amount of student work. At my school this is approx two grades per week. This doesn’t mean that I don’t check for understanding and provide feedback, but if I spent copious amounts of time grade and writing feedback on EVERYTHING my students do, I would be working forever. I mean middle school so I see 100+ students a day.

    When my students are doing independent work, I try to multitask and file papers, etc. This is generally frowned upon and you have to have eyes in the back of your head. It also depends on the age of your students.

    Long term planning! Pinterest! These save tons of week to week planning time.

    • Hey Tiff,

      Thanks so much for sharing your tips and stopping by. Hahaha I agree…Pinterest has been a life saver for me. I can’t recommend it strongly enough to teachers, it has saved me a heap of time. I agree it is so easy to get bogged down in the grading, assessing and leaving feedback on student work. I remember when I first started teaching I tried to at least write a comment on every single bit of student work. No wonder I worked for more than 12 hours a day for 7 days a week. I quickly learned that this was not possible, but it’s taken many years to find a balance and it is something that I need to continually work at.

      Thanks again for your great tips!

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