Time is often thought to be the enemy of all teachers. Whether true or not, educators of every level still look for time management strategies that work for them. They are exploring ways to make the day less hectic and stressful, and there are lots of ideas on how to do this. After all, teachers and administrators alike face many of the same time management challenges.
You can’t always get everything done when you want to. For example, paperwork falls through the cracks, or you feel like you’re losing grip of at-risk students and wondering how to reign them back in. These are just a few of the things teachers can face when figuring out how to make the most of their hours on the clock.
In truth, teachers are as different as the subject matter they teach. What works for some might not work for others. So what are some top time management strategies that would work for pretty much every teacher?
As an educator you should never fear a challenge. If your challenge is time, you can make it work for you instead of against you. These suggestions below will help.
Time Management Strategies for Admins and Teachers Alike
As you read the tips below, you’ll find some common ground between all educators. At one time or another, you have all faced these issues. You’re not alone, so do your best to support each other.
1. Target Your Priorities
It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing the simple tasks because they’re, well, simple. The trouble is that time-sensitive and urgent tasks can fall by the wayside. Once that happens, we can end up with a lot of fires that need putting out.
Determining priorities beforehand is the best way to avoid this. It’s simpler than you think. These quick tips will help you get stuff done the right way.
Tips to Try
- Begin each day by making a full list of the tasks for the day, or do it the night before.
- Organize tasks according to time investment.
- Know the difference between “important” and “urgent.”
- Focus on one task at a time. Anything worth doing deserves your full attention.
- Plan for interruptions (phone calls, fire drills, emergencies, etc.). Keep your cool when they happen.
- Don’t waste energy on stress. If it doesn’t get done today, you did your best.
2. Keep Email at Bay
Where would a list of time management strategies be without mentioning the productivity black hole that is email? It’s sad but true; our mailboxes overflow and can take up way too much of our time in the day. We can even end up sacrificing real work for pinning our time on scanning for messages we’re expecting.
We can avoid this with a few simple strategies that let us take charge. Put these into practice and keep that inbox under control.
Tips to Try
- Use the 4D system for efficient email management:
- Delete: Scan for unwanted emails, and get rid of them.
- Delegate: Give the task to someone else if you can.
- Defer: Set aside tasks that can be done later, but don’t forget!
- Do: If it’s urgent, take it on. Get it out of your way.
- Schedule times when you check mail. When you’re not checking it, log out and leave it alone.
- Allow yourself 2 to 3 minutes only while checking mail. This will teach you to maximize your time on it.
- If an issue can’t be cleared up with 3 messages, call the person or meet with them.
3. Maximize Those Meetings
Meetings are a part of every team’s communication practices. They offer places to express ideas, share achievements, and solve problems. But a poorly planned or managed meeting can quickly degenerate into time-wasting and finger-pointing.
Take charge and turn your meetings into positive circles where progress and efficiency are the norm.
Tips to Try
- Announce the meeting in advance of the scheduled date. 2 or 3 days is fine.
- Schedule start times, but not end times. Leave behind the expectation that a meeting “must last an hour, etc.” A productive meeting takes as long as it has to.
- Don’t waste time by reading things in your meetings. Make sure everything is given out beforehand.
- Maintain focus. Stick to the scheduled topics.
- Plan to arrive early so you can set up and everyone can settle in.
- Don’t let meetings turn into gripe sessions. Encourage people to come with solutions in mind.
- Keep copies of pertinent materials on hand. Don’t make people chase links and emails.
4. Get Organized
As far as time management strategies go, this is perhaps the signature principle: Organize, organize, and organize more.
It’s hard to beat structure when you juggle as much as a teacher does in a day. Trying to focus or find important things in a mountain of mess can be stressful. Organization and order have a calming effect on mind and body. The idea here is to create as little of that as possible.
There’s plenty that you can’t control as an educator. The task of organization, however, you can control.
Tips to Try
- Keep a clean organized workspace.
- Classify, organize, and logically store all your files. Use a system that makes sense to you.
- If something isn’t important or you haven’t looked at it in awhile, consider getting rid of it.
- Once a month (or less) go through all your paper and digital files and clean out the junk.
- If you work at home, schedule a set amount of time for it.
- Keep a to-do list for home as well as work. Part of effective organization is balancing both personal and professional demands.
- Before classes start, have everything set up/labelled/organized as best you can.
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