Time Management Tips for Teachers
What's the number-one time management problem for most teachers? You guessed it—dealing with paperwork. That includes all the reports, tests, attendance forms, graphs, letters, memos, mail, announcements, materials, and requests that consume not only our time but our desk space as well.
One efficiency expert estimated that of all the pieces of paper that go into our filing cabinets every year, fully 95 percent of it will never come out again—or only come out to go into the trash can!
It's obvious that we're “paper packrats.” We hate to throw away anything, and we hoard paper, save paper, move paper from one place (on our desks) to another and file, catalog, and store paper until the proverbial molehill becomes an actual mountain.
Are you buried under mountains of forms? Did you finally discover a 4-week-old missing sandwich under a pile of papers? Do you spend most of your day shuffling, arranging, or filing 81⁄2x11 sheets of paper? Welcome to the club!
There are ways of gaining control over the Mt. Everest of paperwork you must deal with every day. Try these suggestions:
Use colored file folders to file papers. Select a different color for each subject or for each period of the day.
If you haven't looked at a piece of paper in more than a year, throw it away. It's not that important.
Business management experts coach you to handle a piece of paper only once. It's tough to follow, particularly for teachers, but try to keep it in mind the next time you stuff your briefcase with papers.
Use a Rolodex file for phone numbers, addresses, PINs, e-mail addresses, and other frequently used information. A Rolodex file takes up less room than a pile of papers.
Like most teachers, you probably have lots of books. These may be professional books, old textbooks, or resource books. If you haven't looked at a book in 2 years, donate it to your local library or community fund drive.
Designate 1 day every month (for example, the third Tuesday of the month) as “filing day.” Use it to file all the papers that have accumulated on your desk during the month.
Designate 1 day every 6 months as “purging day.” Use it to get rid of all the files and papers you haven't used in the last 12 months.
Use your computer as a filing system. Use your word processing program to organize frequently used forms, exams, and records.
Designate a special file drawer for each subject you teach. Organize it with colored files:
Red: Lesson plans
Green: Tests, quizzes, and exams
Blue: Handouts and worksheets
Yellow: Transparencies and PowerPoint disks
Black: Unit plans
Gray: Supplemental resources and websites
Purchase two file baskets from a local office supply store. Label one “To and from the School Office”; the other “To and from Home.” Place them on your desk, and keep the papers you typically handle moving in and out of them daily.
Photocopy your class roster and laminate it. Use it for multiple purposes: to record incoming homework, parent permission slips, lunch money, etc. Use a wax crayon to mark each task, and then erase it when the task is complete.
Many efficiency experts suggest that you establish time limits on how long you'll keep various types of paperwork. Here are a few suggestions:
Memos: 1 week
Minutes of meetings: 4 weeks
Letters to parents: 3 months
Attendance records: 1 year
Professional articles: 2 years
Lesson plans: 2 years
Grade books: 3 years
Date each piece of paper you receive. When its “expiration date” arrives, get rid of it.
Sort all incoming paperwork into three piles. The “A” pile gets your attention right away; the “B” pile gets your attention within the next 48 hours; and the “C” pile can wait until sometime in the future.