We are all given the same hours in the day but we all choose to use our time differently depending on our personality and our lives in general. If you have children living at home, then you can relate to me and likely have a lot of different schedules to manage. Just exiting the teaching field, I can empathize greatly with teachers of smaller schools who teach many different disciplines. At my previous job I taught Kindergarten–5th grade Technology, Career Development, Financial Peace, AP Computer Science Principles, Dual Enrollment Intro to Computers, as well as being the head of secondary girls dress code and 9th grade class advisor. Phew! This was just one semester’s schedule. It changed for me in the second semester. I still got to teach fun, elective courses, but it was hard to manage my time with having to create lesson plans for many different disciplines.
Some of us are gifted with time management naturally. I am blessed with this gift, and I actually dare to say that I enjoy organization and efficiency. I like to fill my day to get the most out of it. With kids at home, I tried my hardest to leave my school work at school. That was my goal. The purpose of this writing is to give some tips that I used in the classroom setting as well as use in my current position as Curriculum Trak Support Specialist.
The first tip is get up earlier! Ugh! I know! You already get up early. However, getting up earlier, even just 30 minutes earlier, allows you extra quiet time, another cup of coffee, some extra time in God’s Word to give you motivation, and time for you to think through your day. If you have a loud home, it is essential that you get this quiet time in and make it a priority.
The second tip plays off of the first one of getting up earlier. Make exercise a daily routine. Believe me, it is not a myth that exercise is good for you! If you are at all like me – and I know we all are different – by the end of the day, the last thing I desire to do is work out. If I have not worked out first thing in the morning (after my coffee and devotions), I know for a fact it will not happen at all that day. Whatever exercise you like or want to do, go and do it without thinking twice! We designed a small space in our basement where we can go and work out. I hate the “dread” mill. I would much rather go and run outside. However, since I live in Michigan and hate the cold, that doesn’t happen 7-8 months out of the year. Instead, we have a subscription to a workout app where there are a plethora of options available depending on what I would like to do. My daughter even created about ten different motivational sayings and posted them around the room to help encourage us.
The third tip is making lists. I have always been a list person, because adding something to a list means I don’t have to try and remember to do it. Once it’s written down, the burden of remembering can leave my mind. Whether you use the sticky note option on your computer or a spiral bound notebook, it truly doesn’t matter. Think through your day and then your week. Prioritize what you need to get done, not what you want to get done. I admit that sometimes I do what I want to do in order to get motivated. Or sometimes I do something from my list that I know won’t take too long just so I can mark it off my life. When you complete an item, take pleasure in deleting it or marking it off your list. If you need to remember to do something by a certain time, use your phone to put things into a calendar; set a reminder that goes off and physically reminds you. I do this often, and it takes the pressure off my mind to try and remember an impossible number of things.
The fourth tip is what is labeled as “KISS” – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Sorry to be crass, but this is the saying. When you are planning out homework, think through if it is truly essential that you have your students write a 200-word essay question at the end of the test. Could it fulfill the same purpose as a 50-word question? Spend a little extra time creating bubble sheets for test answers and use ZipGrade. (If you haven’t used this yet, you’re truly missing out. It literally takes 2 seconds to grade a multiple choice, true/false test once you have the answers programmed into the app.) Consider what is essential and necessary to the tests and assignments that you give.
The fifth tip is to use every second of your day while at school. Are your students doing an assignment during class? Use that time to grade a set of papers. Are you showing a 15-minute video? Use that time to write lesson plans for one day next week. Are students taking a test? Use that time (after you have done a quick walk around the classroom) to respond to a few emails. We know that many of these little tasks can certainly add up if left unattended but spending little chunks here and there truly makes a dent in your overall workload.
Lastly, and undeniably most importantly, is making it a priority to set aside personal time to rejuvenate and rest. Yes, even during your school day. If you have a minute, take a quick walk around the halls. If you have been standing for a long time and you’re physically tired, close your classroom door, turn off the lights, and set a timer for ten minutes to meditate. I use the Abide App which is a wonderful resource to relax your mind and get some Biblical encouragement all at the same time. Put your headphones on to drown out all the noises around you. You can’t be efficient if you’re too frazzled. Get up and stretch! I am married to a physical therapist and he has helped me in so many ways when it comes to stretching my sore and tired muscles. It gets your blood pumping and energizes you.
In summary, spending your efforts on your time management skills can truly help you become more efficient, and consequently leave you with more time on your hands. You won’t have to think as much when your day is planned and written down. Your brain can relax a bit and you can enjoy your students (and your own children) more.