There’s no doubt that teachers are some of the most busy people around. From arriving at work around 7am and hitting the ground running, to grading a huge stack of papers on the weekends – time management is a necessity for teachers.
As a high school English teacher and a graduate student for the past two years, I always felt like I had to be on top of my time management game in order to hit all the deadlines.
Typically, my normal schedule looked like this on days I attended classes after work:
On weekends, I would work 11am – 5pm on Saturdays (sometimes Friday nights or Sundays) to grade and write lesson plans and work on assignments.
It was definitely a large workload; however, my experience as a teacher and graduate student taught me how to prioritize and manage my time effectively with several competing priorities. While it took me some time to find the right schedule for myself, I learned a lot from my mentors and fellow teachers who were experts at time management.
One of the biggest tips that I had to learn is how to prioritize tasks. While it was tempting for me to procrastinate on my assignments or lesson plans, I knew that finishing them first would help me out in the long run. Prioritizing was also key in communicating promptly to parents and students if they needed to be updated on something.
One of my coaches taught me a simple trick to help with prioritizing: Make three lists of everything you need to do. One list is “High Priority” the other is “Medium” and the last is “Low”.
While this may seem like something that is very simple to do, it helped me tremendously when I had several small tasks I needed to accomplish in addition to larger tasks. This system helped me decide what tasks were really necessary for me to complete that day and what ones I could wait to do until later in the week.
Another strategy that I used often as time blocking, which is setting aside only a certain amount of time for tasks. I found that this helped me to not work on a single task for too long, especially when it was easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of work.
Time blocking also allowed me to break large tasks down into smaller chunks and to schedule in some breaks into my day.
Example of time blocking in my schedule:
Organization and Checklists
There’s no doubt that being able to manage time effectively also requires organization. Whether you prefer a planner or an online calendar, simple organization systems can work wonders when it comes to managing your time.
I’ve always been a fan of planners because I loved adding extra notes to the page and crossing off the tasks. Another way I prioritize my tasks is by using a simple checklist. Towards the beginning of this year, I created a checklist of what I needed to do to write one week’s lesson plans. This made me more efficient at writing lesson plans and helped me check off each part once I was finished.
Self Care and Relaxation
Perhaps one of the most important parts of time management is scheduling in time for self care. As I learned the hard way several times, planning in self care is not only important, but essential! I’ve burned myself out too many times, and many of my burn-outs could have been avoided if I intentionally planned for self-care days and taken a mental health day every once in a while.
One of my mentors once advised me to schedule in time to do something I enjoy before I work in the evenings. While this seemed unlikely to happen at the time, I started to realize how even just taking 15-20 minutes to do something relaxing can make a huge difference after a long day at work. Another one of my mentors advised me to not work for an entire day on the weekends. I tried this for numerous weekends and after a while it gave me the space I needed to disconnect from work for a bit and not do work every day.
We can’t all be at 110% like most of us imagine all the time. Don’t be afraid to schedule in self care time or plan to take some time off for yourself!
Overall, time management can help us reach our goals and make tasks much more manageable. Time management was one of the most valuable lessons I learned as a teacher, and it is something I hope to develop throughout my career. For any teachers, professionals, or just generally busy people out there, we all know how valuable our time is. But it’s also important to remember that sometimes, it’s okay to just go with the flow and to plan time for yourself too!