Feel Like You’re Working Harder Than Ever? 6 Ways to Manage Your Time Better

Working harder does NOT mean working better! With remote and/or hybrid learning, teachers feel like they cannot keep up and that there's never enough time in the day (even more so than before the pandemic!) Seasoned elementary teacher Mikaela shares 6 ways to make your teaching time more manageable, and suggests balancing your health and well-being with the needs of your students, colleagues, and family.

Updated on: November 10, 2020

Tips for better time management with increased workload

In my math class, we lightheartedly talk about how mathematicians are incredibly "lazy" - but really, we mean "efficient." We all know that doing complicated math is by no means easy - far from it! But clever mathematicians have figured out how to get past all of the "heavy lifting" of solving complex problems by using using proven, universally-accepted shortcuts and strategies that save their energy and use their time wisely. As teachers now doing much more work in much less time during the COVID-19 teaching crisis, we can take some cues from the mathematicians and learn to be more efficient with our time and responsibilities.

We have so many things to do, especially during the pandemic! I’ve been trying to organize and manage my time better. I have also been working on giving myself a pass - I have spent most of my career judging myself on how many things I’ve gotten done in a given day. This year, in light of the "new normal," I’m turning over a new leaf and challenging myself to judge my day based on how many opportunities I give myself to rest. Here’s my new approach:

1.  Figure Out Where Your Time Goes

Try spending one week looking in detail at how you spend your time, and try not to judge yourself! Make a list or write in your journal about what you find out. From there, you can look at which things are truly worth the time you’re giving them and which things can be reprioritized. I noticed I was spending a lot of time on to-do list items that I didn’t actually need to complete until much later, just to get them "off the list." In today's teaching scenarios, the reality is that not everything is going to get done. Looking closely at how you spend your time will help you get the most important things off that (never-ending) list.

2.  Get Into a Routine!

Routines and structure help build good habits. Since the average school district is only partway into the school year, cut yourself a BREAK - studies show and psychologists maintain that it takes up to 66 days to make a habit automatic!  Once you’ve looked at where your time goes and where you want it to go, build a weekly and/or daily routine for yourself. My daily schedule includes planning time for school, spending time with friends, and making a tasty meal!

Try to take a minimalist approach that’s simple and keeps your days manageable versus packed.

3.  Prioritize School Work During School Hours

As teachers, we know that our to-do lists never get shorter and sometimes we really DO need to work after the end of the school day. Still, we need to recognize that we can only do so much and that we need time to recharge. Focus on using planning time to prepare materials and lessons so that your after-school and weekend time is free for you and your family! If you really need time beyond your planning sessions, set a timer after school and focus on items that are time-sensitive, or pick one day a week that you work later into the day. I put my computer away after our remote classes finish for the day, and have limited doing extra work after school to one night a week.

4.  Schedule Time for Naps

If you are remote, schedule time for naps throughout the week. If you are in person, set time to nap on the weekends or after school. This can look like sleeping, but may just be mentally resting, reading, or listening to music or podcasts. The benefits of napping and resting have been scientifically proven to strengthen memory and boost productivity. Keeping this time in your schedule can actually help you be more productive when you are working.

5.  Schedule Time for Something That Brings You Joy

Not to go all Marie Kondo on you, but you do need to find joy--even in the smallest of places. Maybe you started a new hobby during the pandemic, or maybe you love to run or exercise. Whatever brings you joy should have a place in your weekly (if not daily) schedule. This time is important for us as teachers. The pandemic does not seem to be going away, so make sure that you’re intentionally taking time for yourself!

6.  Get "Lazy" (EFFICIENT)!

Channel your inner mathematician! With any task, take a little time before beginning and see if you can find the most efficient ways to do it. TeacherVision is a great place to start! You can search for strategies, lessons, and resources that are already created to help you. Reach out to coworkers to share resources and brainstorm ideas with, rather than working alone. This will save your energy for the really important things, like family time or that something special that brings you joy.

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