Do you ever feel like there is never enough time to do all the things you need to do? Or that you can do all the teacher things, but life falls apart at home? Or that you manage to take care of everyone else but yourself? It feels impossible, but great things happen when teachers make the most of their time.
Time management tips to help teachers make the most of their time
To make the most of your time, think about classroom tools that make life easier, setting a plan (check out some of my favorite teacher and life planners), and streamlining your to-do list.
Beyond that, try these time management tips especially for teachers.
1. Bring less work home.
Having downtime or being able to attend to needs at home is important. One way to do that is to bring less work home.
- “When you’re at home, then BE at home. I think it’s important to set boundaries with work and home. If you work better at home than at school, then set clear times for working at home. When you leave school to come home, then leave your teacher bag at school and switch to home mode.” (Melinda)
- “On Thursday and Friday 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!” (Tiff)
2. Organize your workday schedule.
I believe in big picture planning, but you also need to be organized each and every day.
- “I find that when I allocate set times to certain tasks, then I am much more productive. 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.” (Melinda)
- “I created a Daily Workpad to organize each day. It includes everything I need for lessons, including types of questions I want to ask, resources I need and the type of assessment to be gathered. It also has space for anecdotal/assessment notes, any focus students and daily evaluation notes.” (Melinda)
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3. Only grade the minimum amount of student work.
Do you grade and comment on every single thing students do? What would happen if you did less?
- “I also try to only grade the minimum amount of student work. At my school this is approximately 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 grading and writing feedback on EVERYTHING my students do, I would be working forever.” (Tiff)
- “I also have a schedule in which they turn in their notebooks so it’s only three students a day.” (Maggie)
- “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.” (Maggie)
4. Multitask when students are doing independent work.
This doesn’t work for all ages, but if possible, do some work while students are working independently. As noted in tip 3, this is also a time when you can do 1–1 conference grading.
- “When my students are doing independent work, I try to multitask and file papers, etc.” (Tiff)
5. Use to do lists.
To do lists can be super helpful—if you create them right! Make the most of your time with better to-do lists.
- “To-do lists are essential to me.” (Maggie)
- “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.” (Andrea)
- “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 focus in on what are the most important things that need to be done in a day.” (Melinda)
6. Have fully developed long-term planning.
Put your planner to work! I like to have an overall flow of the year, getting more specific for the next 90 days, and even more specific by month and week.
- “Also having fully developed units. I remember last year (my first full year) I was planning and grading every night.” (Maggie)
- “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.” (Andrea)
7. Be realistic.
When our planning is realistic, we avoid a LOT of frustration. You set yourself up for failure when you try to cram four days worth of work into a single day or just braindump all the things you think you should do without planning it out.
- “I’m sure just like me you want to have that perfect classroom, with the perfect students, with the perfect everything….But let’s take a minute to reflect and be realistic on what is achievable with your students.” (Melinda)
8. Make relaxation necessary.
Self care and work-life balance often take the fall when we don’t make the most of our time. Take care of the basics—and insist on time to relax (sometimes that goes back to #1—leave the work at school!)
- “I always have a for fun book I’m reading. I schedule gym time.” (Maggie)
9. Be organized on the home front.
Make sure your to-do list doesn’t end when you leave school. Schedule time for home needs like groceries, meal prep, and laundry. And look for chores you can systematize or outsource to make them easier.
- “On the home front, 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.” (Andrea)
- “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!!!” (Melinda)
10. Just say no.
Sometimes making the most of your time means doing less, and that starts with saying no. Whether it is a committee at school or another birthday party on an already packed weekend, it’s OK to say no.
- “I have made the promise to myself that I will … try really hard … to say NO to the next organize this request. We have to know our limits and all this organizing 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)
How do you make the most of your time? Share your favorite tip with us!
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