The Best Time Management Tips for Teachers
The best way to be able to leave the classroom is to be more efficient while in the classroom. This will allow you to spend more time focused on your exit strategy and/or your side hustle.
In order to do that, we need to determine how you can accomplish everything you need to in less time so you are able to leave as soon as your contracted hours are complete.
And of course, this means we need to narrow down the absolute best time management tips for teachers because good time management skills don’t just happen by accident.
But you are in luck because that is exactly what today’s blog post is all about. We are going to discuss how to…
- determine your most important tasks (even when everything feels equally important),
- set boundaries so your professional life doesn’t bleed over into your personal life, and
- successfully and consistently apply these tips in order to leave the classroom
Time Management Tip #1 – Determine Your Most Important Tasks
Have you ever felt like you worked all day, but feel as if you accomplished nothing? Yeah…I think we all feel that way a little more often than we care to admit. But do you want to know a secret?
The reason you feel that way is because you don’t actually know what important tasks you NEED to be working on each day.
Think about it.
You know you want to improve your spiritual health, and each day you make a passing comment that sounds oddly like, “I need to get closer to the Lord.” But then you go throw in another load of laundry and load the dishwasher before flipping on the tv to watch another show on Netflix.
Or maybe you want to help a student who is struggling with multiplication. But when you get to school, you’re bombarded with needing to make your lesson plans, an impromptu admin visit, and an unexpected IEP meeting you have to attend.
The tough part is that these things weren’t planned are yet they are definitely still important, but unfortunately, by the time you have put out those “fires” your brain is tired and you don’t have the capacity to think about the other things you really NEEDED to do.
So you go through the day just attending to the most immediate tasks that present themselves and ignore the things you really feel are important.
But what can you do to change this habitual cycle of feeling overwhelmed by your circumstances?
Well, the first thing you need to do is create a list; and not just a sticky note that you will misplace or lose.
You need to determine which specific tasks MUST be accomplished even if nothing else worthwhile happens that day. These are your most important tasks.
If you start your day without knowing the most important tasks for that day, you are at the mercy of your circumstances and emotions.
Consider this scenario.
You decide that reading your Bible and praying are one of your most important tasks each day. So you set your alarm early to get up before everyone else. Your alarm goes off, you decide to make yourself a piece of cheese toast in the oven and you grab your Bible.
About that time, your toddler walks up behind you and you notice her pants are wet. You run to her room and help her change her pjs while you strip her bed. As you are walking back through the kitchen you smell smoke and remember your toast, which has completely burned.
To say you are not really in a spiritual frame of mind is an understatement.
But because you determined AHEAD OF TIME that this task was important, you push through those feelings and do the task because it is important.
I say that to say this.
When we don’t know our most important tasks, they will get overlooked as soon as the most immediate tasks that throw themselves into our path.
So what can you do?
Action Step 1
Determine 3 things you want to accomplish each day. Write those things down on a task list THE DAY BEFORE so they’re ready to be tackled as soon as you wake up or get to work the next day.
Then even when things go haywire (because they will), you know that you need to accomplish those three things before you go to bed the next night.
Time Management Tip #2 – Set Deadlines
Every job has specific due dates whether that be when a project needs to be completed, reports need to be turned in, or money needs to be paid. And these deadlines are what keep us on track for getting that project finished, writing that report, or transferring that money.
Deadlines create urgency and cause us to take action.
But what happens when you don’t have a due date or deadline? This answer is going to blow your mind…you make one!
I do this with my coaching clients all the time. We set specific deadlines for certain tasks to be completed, and just like that, we have created urgency.
Typically we discuss the big project my client wants to tackle during our time together like creating a course, setting up freebies and designated email automations, starting a website, or whatever they want to finally do.
And because each coaching cycle is 12 weeks, we have our first deadline of 12 weeks from that meeting. Then we work backwards to determine what smaller tasks we need to accomplish in order to achieve the end result in our desired time frame.
Understanding where you are currently and how to get to the next level is crucial if you plan to leave the classroom. Let me give you personalized insight into your next best steps!
Without a time limit, we feel no pressure to spend our free time today working on a task that we can just put off until tomorrow. That’s why even the small tasks get neglected because we don’t feel like working on them right now.
Then a day turns into a week, a week turns into a month, and a month turns into never. And that huge course you want to create, that TPT shop you want to open, or that website you have been trying to get started on for a year never comes to fruition.
So what can you do?
Action Step 2
Decide what you want (or need) to accomplish; it doesn’t matter how big or how small. Then set a deadline and tell someone about the deadline so that you actually follow through.
Share it with a friend, coworker, or even on social media! If you have no one you can share your deadline with then hop over to Instagram and share your deadline with me so I can hold you accountable!
Time Management Tip #3 – Set Boundaries
Just as deadlines are important, boundaries are equally important on our list of time management tips for teachers.
Now this is an interesting dynamic because intuitively we think of having a deadline as working as long as needed to complete a task, but we think of boundaries as the designated time we are leaving work each day.
So how can these two actually work together?
Well, I’m really glad you asked because the problem isn’t with deadlines and boundaries…it’s with our understanding of the words’ definitions.
You see, the purpose of a deadline isn’t to ignore it until the eleventh hour. The point is to know when a project needs to be completed so that we can break down each component into manageable parts leading up to the full project completion.
This give us enough space to get everything related to that deadline accomplished without having to compromise our boundaries.
But when we put off tasks, this is exactly what ends up happening. Procrastination creates an emergency that leaves you without enough time to complete the project you were delegated.
On the other hand, if we set up a distinct boundary regarding what hours we will be at work, then we know exactly how much time we will to need to accomplish each task before the deadline.
So instead of our work-life balance being nonexistent, we suddenly realize setting boundaries is the best thing we’ve ever done because we are now in control of our schedule.
No extra time needs to be spent at school because we have…
- set clear goals for what we will be completing and when we will do those things,
- designated specific office hours and we will abide by those times, and
- spent our allotted time on the tasks that need our attention.
So that begs the question….will there be times you choose to deviate from your boundaries?
Well, that’s up to you! I think if a boundary has been set, it should be honored.
However, I also understand that there are exceptions to just about every rule, and in this situation an emergency may appear that requires you to set the boundary aside.
There will be required professional development, parent – teacher conferences, and other activities that you must attend as stated in your teaching contract. But the key is to understand that outside of those additional commitments specifically mandated by your district, you get to determine the amount of time you will devote to these tasks.
Just be mindful when you consider shifting your boundary lines because as soon as you disregard a boundary, it will be easy to fall back into old habits.
Action Step 3
Determine what boundaries you need to set from when you leave school to how much access you give parents. If you aren’t sure where to begin, check out episode #15 How to Set Boundaries as a Teacher Before You Leave the Classroom. It has so many actionable steps that will get you moving in the right direction.
Time Management Tip #4 – Create a Daily Checklist
If there are daily tasks you need to accomplish, one of the best ways to make them is happen is with a daily checklist. This will guarantee that you don’t forget things in the hustle and bustle of your day.
I have a checklist that includes vitamins, collagen, phytos, water, and exercise. To me, these are not just important tasks. They are non-negotiables for my physical health.
Most of them (excluding the exercise) only take about a minute or less to do each day, but they are just as easy to do as they are not to do which is why I have them on my checklist. Seeing the checklist is a visual reminder to do those things first thing in the morning that I might otherwise forget to do at the end of the day.
A great place for you to start is with a classroom checklist.
Perhaps you need to turn off your computer, unplug your diffuser, sweep your floors, switch your special schedule, add tomorrow’s date to the board, and make sure the chairs are on the desks each day.
Sure you’ve done these tasks a thousand times, but wouldn’t it be better to have that list of tasks right on your desk so you know you haven’t forgotten anything?
Having a daily checklist also opens up mental space for you because instead of trying to remember the 12 things you do before you go home, you just have to glance at your daily to-do list.
Action Step 4
Create a daily checklist and then laminate it. This is a simple way to avoid having to make a million copies and it allows you to check off your list using a dry erase marker. Then at the end of each day, simply erase it and it will be ready for tomorrow’s daily activities.
Time Management Tip #5 – Use Your Time Wisely
This may seem like a ludicrous addition to our time management tips for teachers list, but the truth is we all should occasionally audit our work ethic. It’s easy to get into a lesson planning slump and just decide we are going to “wing it.”
I get it! I know how tiresome teaching can be. But I also know that if you use your planning time wisely you can get to the end of the school day and actually be able to leave once your students are gone because you made the best use of time during school hours.
Then you can leave and actually have a home life that doesn’t include a bag full of extra work and ungraded papers.
So establish set time slots for various tasks you know you need to complete daily, weekly, next week, and even in the coming weeks. Then use that time for the specific task you have listed on your most important tasks list.
If you focus on accomplishing the things on that list, then every day you will spend the necessary class time on teaching and your planning time on grading, preparing math activities, updating your bulletin boards, restructuring your small groups, instituting a new classroom management plan, etc.
Trust me when I tell you accepting this fact (and actually doing it) is one of the best time management techniques you will implement in your life. It won’t require a lot of time, but it will require you to be honest with yourself.
Action Step 5
Do an honest evaluation of your time at school. Are you using your time wisely or could you do a better job of focusing on school tasks at school? The key to making progress is acknowledging where you can make positive changes.
The truth is, teaching is a demanding job that requires a tremendous amount of work, which translates into a lot expended time and energy. And this is even more true in your first year of teaching.
But it is manageable by implementing these 5 time management tips for teachers. So let’s recap…
- Determine your most important tasks,
- Give yourself realistic deadlines,
- Set appropriate boundaries,
- Create a daily checklist, and
- Use your time wisely
If you will follow and consistently apply these simple time management tips for teachers, you can learn to love your teaching job again.
And if you know you’re ready to leave your teaching career and pursue something different, doing these things gives you the space you need to send out resumes, grow your side hustle, or research other jobs.
Either way, these effective time management tips for teachers will help you become more productive every single day of the week.