The thorny issue of time management is one of the greatest causes of stress for educators -- it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed. There always seems to be more than enough to do, because, well... there is.
Work expands to fill the time we give it.
The Three Time Zones
As a teacher, you need to manage three specific elements to your day:
The boundaries between 1 to 2 and 1 to 3 are clear -- bells and buzzers set those for you.
The big question is, how do you manage the move from Zone 2 to 3?
When and where does work stop and personal life begin?
When you plan, prepare, assess students’ work, make the classroom displays, organize your paperwork or any of the other jobs do, you’re in Zone 2.
Zone 2 is all about quantity and quality.
It raises two questions…
How much to do in Zone 2
Some Zone 2 activity is clearly defined. Once you’ve started it, sooner or later you have to finish it. You can’t give grades to most of a class -- you have to complete them all, usually to some sort of deadline. Other activities may not be deadline driven, but they still matter to you.
Here are two suggestions for Zone 2 success:
Let’s say your classes finish at 3.30pm. You plan to leave school at 5.00pm. (If you create a good reason to do so, it helps). Your Zone 2 time may consist of this 90 minute slot, plus an hour or two during the day.
So, you have approximately three hours in Zone 2 (and that time will include interruptions, ‘emergencies’ and ‘have to’s’ -- plan for two; anything else is a bonus).
Aim to work on a role or goal related task for a length of time -- say, 30 minutes. Unless it’s urgent, move on to another task. If you want to take the task beyond the time slot you allocated it, take a minute to consider the effects of not doing the next task on your list. Can it wait? If so, fine, carry on.
One 'solution' to better time management for teachers is to take work home in the evening. This is understandable because it takes some of the pressure off the day, and you spend less time managing interruptions (depending on your circumstances).
It’s worth remembering two things though…
Know when to be ‘unperfect’
When we try to do too much and/or too well, stress is often the result.
Of course, quality is important, even essential at times. But developing the ability to know when ‘good enough’ is good enough is a vital part of effective time management for teachers. Apply the 80-20 rule at work.
When I started my teaching career, I came home every day feeling completely wiped out.
In part, that was to be expected -- making the transition from student to teacher is a huge challenge.
In my desire to prove myself, I was giving everything to everyone.
Thankfully, in my first year of teaching, an older and wiser colleague gave me one of the best pieces of advice I ever received:
He was right. Recognize what needs 100% and what doesn’t.
We all get that wrong from time to time...
Sometimes we try too hard, even to the point of experiencing teacher burnout as a result.
At other times we don’t try hard enough. Practice this, and stay aware of it to gradually improve the accuracy of your estimates.
So, successful time management for teachers depends on four criteria. You simply have to improve your ability to:
Get better at the this process and you’ll save yourself hundreds, even thousands of hours -- hours you can use to do more of what matters to you.
If you’ve made it this far through this article (well done, by the way!), you’ll almost certainly improve your time management.
Because getting to this point suggests you’re interested in filling less and using more of your time. That fact alone will put you on the path to a better understanding of the importance of time management and consequently a better application of it than the vast majority of your colleagues achieve.
Time management for teachers will always be a challenge. Use this page to help you spend less time doing what you have to and more time doing what you want to do.
Do you have time to teach and still have a life outside the classroom?
Take a moment to answer any or all of the following questions...
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