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Time management can be a challenge for adults in any profession, but it’s an especially important skill for teachers. The earlier you master it, the better off you’ll be. Time management applies not only to how you use your instructional time in the classroom with your students, but also how you utilize your planning periods, after-school time, at-home time, and more. We know you don’t want to take a ton of work home with you every single day, but the time you spend at school may need to be focused on specific tasks, leaving you to somehow find time to complete your other teaching-related tasks elsewhere. Here are our top five time management tips for teachers to help you stress less and get more done.
Set Goals and Deadlines
Goals can be short- or long-term, as can deadlines. You may need to set a goal of spending 15 minutes every day grading papers or the first half of your planning time responding to parent emails. You might need to set a goal to get all of your copies made for the week by Monday afternoon or get all of your grading done for the week by Wednesday morning. You need to actually set these goals and write them down where you can see them rather than just mentally consider them. In terms of deadlines, you should consider what needs to be done when and plan accordingly. Just like you set deadlines for your students, do so for yourself as well to keep you on track with completing everything that needs to be done. For example, if you know you have a large number of projects or papers being submitted on a certain day, you should give yourself a deadline of having all other assignments graded the day before that due date.
Schedule Your Time
It can be overwhelming to think about scheduling your downtime when the entire rest of your day is already scheduled. But it can be incredibly beneficial to make a schedule for yourself to keep you on track during your planning period, other downtime at school, and your work time at home. You should start with the priority projects you outlined while you were goal-setting and creating deadlines, and then allot certain time slots for each task you need to complete. This can help you stay focused and on-task, rather than bouncing around from one thing to another and wasting time checking and re-checking your to-do list.
Make Use of Technology
There are a number of mobile apps, software programs, websites, and more that can help you make the most of your time. You may wish to utilize Google Docs for your students’ assignments so you can notate on their assignments by typing rather than handwriting your responses. You might choose to use an online calendar for scheduling or a note-taking app on your phone to keep your to-do lists in one place so that you’ll always have them with you. You also might install or utilize screen time apps on your phone or computer to make sure you’re limiting time on non-essential programs or apps.
Embrace the Two-Minute Rule
The two-minute rule states that if it can be done in less than two minutes, you should just do it now rather than put it off until later. This can be applied to things within the classroom, like wiping down desks, or things in your planning, like filing a stack of papers. It can also apply to chores at home, sending emails or texts to parents or co-workers, and more. Don’t put off simple tasks that won’t take much time because they’ll likely take more time later due to putting them off, or they simply won’t get done. Be aware, however, that sometimes these “two-minute tasks” will add up and you’ll need to put off all of them for a time in order to focus on completing a bigger task during downtime. But if you can accomplish these “two-minute tasks” throughout the day, you’ll have more time to focus on larger projects when things slow down.
Delegate Tasks and Team Up
Obviously, not all of your tasks as a teacher can be delegated or completed as a team. However, there are a number of things that you do that can likely be shifted to someone else either occasionally or always. Have students file papers, hand back assignments, or even help grade homework pages. Assign students to tidy up parts of the classroom, running papers to another teacher, or making copies between classes. You may also talk to other teachers in your department or grade level about combining and condensing some of the workload to make everyone’s lives easier. Maybe one person writes the weekly grade-level newsletter each week rather than each teacher doing her own, or perhaps each teacher plans an entire unit and shares activities and lessons with the others.
No matter how much or how little time you feel you have, you can always maximize your time by learning and establishing good time management skills. Apply these and experience more free time and increased productivity in and out of the classroom.