How Can We Get it All Done in the Time We’re Given?
Time Management Tips from IEA Member Kylie Christensen, Borah High School
Grading, answering e-mails, IEP meetings, staff meetings, collaboration, more grading, parent teacher conferences, after school coaching, club advisories, more grading…the list goes on and on. As teachers we know all too well that our day consists of far more than simply delivering lessons. With so much to accomplish the million dollar question remains: how do teachers find the time to get it all done?
With my never ending “to-do” list I feel that time can be a “frenemy.” How, within the available time throughout the work day, can I effectively and efficiently accomplish lesson planning and the administration tasks of my job without staying after school until the wee hours of the evening every night?
This was my conundrum, and I wasn’t alone. At a recent educator’s retreat our cohort discussed time management and the above issues at length. We discovered a principle foundation for effective time management: When at work, do work. Sounds like a no-brainer, but we found that it’s difficult not to socialize or get caught up with the “time sucking” chit-chat during our prep time, lunch, before and after school with friends and colleagues. With this principle in mind I decided that if I wanted to have a life outside of my work, and effectively get work done, I needed to revamp how I was using my time throughout my work day. For those educators that find themselves like me asking the above question, “How do I get it all done?” here are a few tips and strategies to consider.
Discovering your best working windows.
Step 1: Sit down and write out your school day or week completely. As you do so, identify the times within your work day where “prep” time is available for your use. This could be lunch, before/after school, recess time, music class, etc.
Step 2: Make decisions about when you are the most productive throughout the day. Are you a morning, evening, mid-day person? When do kids, colleagues, parents visit your classroom? Decide at which point in the day you are most productive and least likely to be interrupted and build your schedule around these strengths. If you need five cups of coffee before you can function, coming in early before school is probably not the wisest choice.
Step 3: Identify your top priorities throughout the day. Once you have established these priorities it is then a matter of deciding which tasks to accomplish at the times identified throughout your day where you will be most productive and effective.
Mix and Match
After establishing your best working windows, here are a few tips and ideas as you plan out the most effective way to accomplish your top priorities.
– Pick 3 specific times each day to read and answer e-mails.
– Establish extra help “office hours” for your students to come in and ask questions and receive help on assignments. By establishing this routine with your students you can plan on students coming in at specific times and reduce being interrupted throughout the day.
– Establish one day a week to come in early or stay late to specifically work on one thing. This could be grading, filing, planning, etc.
– Create a “Do not disturb: working on ________________” door hanger or sign that you can use when you truly need to buckle down and get ‘er done.
– Create a “stoplight” priority system to accomplish daily tasks: “Red” must get done before school starts, “Yellow” must get done before lunchtime, and “Green” must get done before you leave school.
– Don’t be afraid to say you’re busy. Where appropriate, politely and respectfully ask students, colleagues, and parents to come back, call back, or schedule an appointment.
– Pick one day each week to drop everything and have lunch or socialize with your colleagues, we all need a break!