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 are 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 good work-life balance.
Why top-notch teachers struggle with work-life balance
Being a teacher offers 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/behavior 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 is not healthy and a sure way to teacher burnout), then I think it’s important to really come up with useful strategies for managing teaching tasks and making time for things you like to do outside of teaching (remember those things you love to do?).
I’m going to share a few tips that have worked for me—and I’m opening up a conversation because we can all use more ways to find work-life balance—ways that work for teachers.
Time management strategies for better work-life balance
These are my top 3 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 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. Instead, I try and have set hours at school, so that work 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 30 minutes 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 quiet, I am most alert and I have at a minimum of 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. This is usually when I do my planning. 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
Boring, I suppose, but having a to-do list really works for me. I’ve played around with the best way to create my lists. I’ve found that if I have too many things on the list, then it becomes overwhelming and I do none of it.
I usually put only my top 3 priorities on the list for each day. Having a short to-do list gives me a fair chance at success and helps me really focus in on what the most important things that need to be done in a day. As a teacher, if I don’t prioritize to do the most important things, then I’ll never have any down time.
3. Use the resources available to you
You don’t have to create your own worksheets or games for every lesson. By using resources that somebody else created, you can save time. You can use that time to take care of something else on your to-do list—or take a little extra down time.
In addition to choosing not to reinvent the wheel, use other teachers and resources to solve problems and find ideas. You can connect with teachers within your own school or district and tap into the teaching communities online, like the Top Notch Teaching Community.
Work-life balance requires time management skills and boundaries. Teaching is tough, but we can make time for ourselves. In fact, top notch teachers need work-life balance to keep doing an exceptional job. What will you do for better balance today?
We can all use more work-life balance tips. What are your best ways to manage time?
Finding work-life balance can be especially tricky for new teachers. You want to do your best by your students. You’re figuring out what it is really like to be in charge of a class. You don’t have experience or old lesson plans to fall back on. You can still THRIVE.
The Thrive New Teacher Support Program is open now with resources, tips and techniques, and a community to support you in being an exceptional teacher with work-life balance—even as you learn the ropes.