As you know (all too well), teaching is a busy profession. So your time management is key to preparing for your classes and students. Nailing this all-important skill will also ensure your burning passion for teaching stays red hot through everything the profession throws your way.
Here are our six top tips to help you get on top of that workload!
Make to-do lists your new BFF
It’s important to know what you have on each day, as well as what is coming up over the next fortnight, month, or even term. Start by creating a set of different to-do lists. Firstly, list what the key focuses and events are for that term, such as professional development meetings, unit planning, and assignment deadlines. From there, gauge what your term is going to hold and start with fortnightly and weekly planning – what’s more front-of-mind to get done. This will help you sort lesson plans ahead of time and minimize any time management surprises!
With this, you’ll also be creating a guide in what needs to be covered in class – showing you where you can slow content down to ensure full student engagement and understanding, or when you might need to change to make sure you meet assignment start dates. Classroom management trick 101.
An awesome habit to adopt is writing your to-do list every Friday afternoon for the following week. Then, come Monday morning, you can quickly review the list and prioritize the order of when each task needs to be completed. This method allows you to reflect on the past week and move any unfinished tasks to the week ahead. It’ll also help you feel organized when you leave work for the weekend, which is key for work-life balance!
On a more regular basis, try to incorporate daily to-do lists of things needed for your class that day – such as resource printing or putting materials online for my students.
Give yourself time to reflect and review
As well as using your Friday to think about the coming week, give yourself a set time at the end of the day to go over your daily to-do list. This allows some time to adjust upcoming lessons but also to enjoy the satisfaction of ticking things off – which everyone can agree is the best thing about a to-do list and makes time management rewarding! It also means you can see if you have extra time to complete anything else from your list of jobs or maybe move things to do the next week if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Remember, a to-do list is not a contract and it’s okay to leave things unticked, too. What’s most important is that you feel in charge of it and can adjust it as needed.
By reflecting on what you have done each day, as well as what is coming up on your weekly or termly to-do lists, you’ll start feeling more in control of your time and what you can achieve.
Set manageable goals and jobs
Having tidal waves of student work to grade, on top of all your lesson planning, can quickly begin to feel overwhelming. This is where a goal-setting routine becomes your secret weapon.
Start by making a deadline of when your job needs to be done and then work backward by deciding what needs to be done each day leading up to your deadline. For example, if 30 students hand in work for grading, give yourself a week and grade six assignments a day.
This is effective time management that’ll help you feel in control of your tasks. It’ll also help with classroom organization to have some plastic trays for each class to store resources as well as a to-do tray and a completed tray. It’s quite satisfying to see the fruits of your labor when you move work from the ‘to be graded’ tray to the ‘grading completed’ tray!
Avoid busy traps!
When it comes to planning time, try not to confuse busy work with effective time management.
We all love a color-coded planner made with all sorts of bright pens and stickers – these things can be great for inspiring organization! But, if you’re spending lots of time trying out the latest hack and not doing any substantial work, then your teaching experience will suffer as you’ll barely find enough time to switch off. So be careful of the amount of time you spend organizing your time management.
Instead, pick a planner or app and choose set colors to use for certain tasks and just stick with it. Remember these time management strategies are for you, not Pinterest.
Another important time management skill is to utilize tools like scheduling posts on Google Classroom. It means you have your materials set up at the end of the school day, ready to go.
Lastly, set yourself office hours for emails. Again, by using scheduling tools on emails, you can write and send them when it suits you without wondering about a reply. This helps to keep a work-life balance both for you and whoever’s receiving your email.
Be a team player
Sending some resources to the printer or need to laminate student work to display in class? Check with others to see if they need that resource printed as well or were also planning to fire up the laminator. There’s no point in multiple people doing the same job, and if talk about what you’re doing or what’s coming up on your to-do list, you’ll find that you can often share the load.
Teaching can be a lonely job; staying in a class all day, running from a meeting to lunchtime duty, to helping with an afterschool practice; so factor in some time to talk as a department about what’s on everyone’s plates so you can work together – a problem shared is a problem halved!
Prioritizing your work-life balance!
Burnout is a real issue in teaching, so this is one of our most important time management tips.
It’s a job where a heap of different people are asking a lot from you; from students to other staff, to school administrators, to families. But you have to remember that you have a personal life too. Just like you write to-do lists and set deadlines to help complete tasks, prioritize yourself on that to-do list and set deadlines when it’s time to stop, go home and put your feet up.
At the end of the day, if you’re facing burnout, you’ll not enjoy the job and your learners will suffer. Give yourself enough time to look after yourself – the printing and laminating will still be there tomorrow!