The first time I experienced that bone-deep exhaustion that is the hallmark of parenthood was when I was pregnant with my first child. Driving home most days, all I could think about was napping on my comfy couch. I definitely could’ve used some time-management tips!
But, like parenting, teaching is one of those jobs that never feels done. The to-do list is never-ending and it can consume all of your time. If you let it. And that’s not even throwing in the other demands of adulthood.
So how do you try to get it all done, without feeling like you are drowning?
What is a block schedule?
Tip number one is to create a block schedule. A block schedule is when you break up your day into ‘blocks’, during which you accomplish different types of tasks. Kinda like a timetable – which is why teachers probably find them easy to implement.
Block schedules are a great tip to manage your time because they help you to accomplish different types of tasks at different times. This time management tip mostly helps you juggle all of the jobs you have (parent, cleaner, teacher, cook etc.).
Block schedules also stop you from getting caught up on tasks for unreasonable lengths of time. (Half of which you spend scrolling through Facebook because you got bored/got distracted etc.).
What would a block schedule look like for you?
If you are working full time, your ‘blocks’ might look something like: morning, work, evening, night. In your morning block, you might wake up, eat breakfast, shower, pack your bag, and drive to work while listening to a podcast.
You would then do your work block, which for most teachers is timetabled. Class A is at 9am, Class B at 10am etc. You would probably then stay at work and finish some marking, prep, phone calls or meetings.
When you got home, your evening block might involve getting kids from school or daycare. Then you are probably cooking and eating dinner, getting kids to bed and cleaning up.
Your night time block might then include doing MORE prep for work (sigh), a little me-time or time with your partner. You might then have a shower, reading a book, and going to sleep.
If you are a stay-at-home parent, or work-from-home parent, your block schedule might look something like mine.
You will have similar blocks to someone working full-time (morning, work, evening, night), but most blocks will be taking care of kiddos.
I have a morning, work, afternoon/evening, and night-time block. Mornings include making breakfast, feeding the kiddos, and getting everyone ready to exit the house. Usually to do some kid-related activity (like playgroup).
Then comes more feeding of the kiddos, in this case lunch (although there WAS a snack in between). And after that is the holy grail, quietest time of my day (if all goes to plan): naptime. Naptime is my work block, and means I get an hour if I am lucky to run my TPT business.
The afternoon/evening block usually involves more feeding of the kiddos. (Are you noticing how much these kiddos eat?! And why my life right now seems like an endless conveyor belt of feeding and cleaning up ?!).
We then do some home-based kiddo activity like painting, drawing, or going for a walk. During this time I also try to do other household chores/errands such as prepping dinner for more monster feeding. Eventually, they are fed (and I am fed up-ha!), bathed, lulled to calmness with stories, and put to bed.
The night-time block is where I take time for myself, do more work, or spend time my husband.
Why use a block schedule?
Having a block schedule can help you to balance all of the things you need to do by giving you structure WHEN you will do them and when you WILL NOT do them.
Pre-kiddos, I DID NOT do school work at home. Except for marking. When I had lots of marking and grading, usually near the end of term, I would call in sick and do as much as possible that day. (No judgement please, I’m Aussie and “chucking a sickie” is a beautiful, beautiful cultural quirk).
Instead of working at home after school, I prioritised my tasks each day, with the stuff I needed to do for tomorrow at the top of the list. Then, I stayed at work until I finished those tasks. After that, I would check the time and if it was late I would go home. If it was early, I would stay and do some of the non-essential tasks.
Now, if you have daycare pick-ups, this doesn’t work because you.have.to.be.there. BUT, you can say that you will spend an hour after they’re asleep to get the highest-priority tasks done. Then you will STOP.
In terms of time management for teachers, a block schedule can work fantastically whether you are in the classroom or whether you are a stay-at-home-parent with or without a side-hustle. A block schedule allows you to allocate time to all of the things you need to do, including taking time for yourself.
Eat the frog
Ok, time management tip for teachers number two. Eat the frog? What now? Stay with me here.
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the bigger frog first.”Mark Twain
Soooooo . . . huh? Basically, this means that you should get the hard, high-value stuff (eating a frog) out of the way first.
If you were running a business, the first doing the tasks would be those that make you the most money in the least amount of time. Then would come the less lucrative tasks.
But if you’re a teacher, this time management tip means doing the things that will cause you *most* pain tomorrow if you don’t do them today.
Teacher’s frogs will be tasks such as prepping your lessons for the next day because you *need* that done to survive the lessons.
Then, if you have time left over, you would tackle the less painful tasks that need to be done in the next few days. These might include planning for the next unit, making parent phone calls, or writing that email.
Have a routine
Time management tip for teachers number three: have a routine about when you do stuff. This tip works together with tip one, the block schedule, and enables you to do all the things bit by bit so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
For example, I don’t do one big house clean each week. Instead, I tackle one or two chores each day. I clean the bathrooms/toilets on a Wednesday morning before playgroup. And I set the robot vacuum going on a Tuesday and Saturday, as by then the ground is usually getting grubby.
I do laundry on an as-needed during the week and usually put it away on the weekend.
Monday nights I usually do life admin: pay bills, read emails, research insurance, look at our budgeting etc. I usually meal plan on Friday night (I know, SUPER exciting, right?) and order groceries online so I can pick them up over the weekend.
I wipe down the kitchen each day (wipe the benches, wash the dishes, load the dishwasher etc) while the husband does the kiddos’ baths.
But first, coffee (or tea)
And you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I set out the tea/coffee stuff the night before so that I can be caffeinated simply by boiling the kettle and pouring in the water and milk in the morning. Because caffeine is essential and my baby.is.heavy.
This sounds very OTT (or OCD?), but I also only do the chores on those days if they need doing. Otherwise they wait until the next week (or as long as I can ignore it).
Breaking up the chores into smaller chunks that I do throughout the week means that I DON’T *usually* get overwhelmed.
But, it DOES mean that everything is kinda in a state of being half-done. Sounds very zen . . . basically it means my house is never clean top to bottom, the kiddo sometimes runs out of clean underwear necessitating a dig through the clean-laundry pile, and I often scratch my head trying to work out what I bought at Kmart three weeks ago that cost $3.73.
Having a routine of who does which jobs and when they do them means that everything *generally* gets done.
Be organised is time-management tip for teachers number four.
Okay, yeah, you know this, you’re a teacher. Being organised evaporates stress from your day. Knowing that dinner is defrosting the fridge, or cooking in the slow cooker is AMAZING.
Crunching a salad at your desk for lunch or munching on carrot sticks not only keeps you healthier and wealthier, but it also saves you time. No emergency trips to the grocery store or drive-thru on the way home from work.
Things that you might like to have organised include:
- menu planning and meal prepping,
- where the leaving-the-house gear (eg: backpacks, shoes, jackets, hats etc) goes
- how to stack the dishwasher (makes it faster to put away)
- where you put bills before and after they’re paid
- how to arrange drawers so that you can quickly find what you need
- where different items go in the fridge/freezer/pantry etc
You get the idea.
This time management tip only works if you work out your own pain points though.
Hate having to work out what’s for dinner after a long day? Menu plan and meal prep.
Hate having to find Junior’s backpack, drink bottle, and spare clothes before the daycare drop off? Have an entry/exit station in your house where you store it all as you come and go.
Hate cleaning the house on your days off on the weekend? Do one chore each day and live with the house being generally clean and tidy (but not completely clean). Or hire a cleaner (#goals).
Have running to-do lists
Time management tip for teachers number five: have a running to-do list. Again, teaching is one of those jobs that is never really done.
By writing a to-do list that keeps going, and crossing things off as they get done, you can keep progressing on your goals.
I have a giant work to-do list that I have in a business notebook. I also have long-term to-do items and product ideas listed on Google Tasks on my phone.
My husband and I also each have a personal to-do list and a shared household to-do/shopping list. It’s connected to our shared household email account and allows us both to add to and see jobs that need to be done.
Each week, I use my work to-do, personal to-do, and shared household to-do lists to create a plan of what I will do and when I will do it.
If I don’t accomplish everything from this week’s list, I write it at the top of the list for next week. Then, I use a planner to write down when you will do different tasks during the week.
How did I learn this? Where can you learn more?
Some of these tips came about from trial and error. Others came from YouTube videos, namely the block schedule one by Jordan Page at Fun, Cheap or Free.
Lorraine Murphy explains how to establish effective routines in her book Get Remarkably Organised. Or, if you want a shorter read, Mrs Frugalwoods explains how she approaches time management.
I read The Four-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss just after my son was born (and I was confined to a nursing chair for a hundred hours a day). He is big on outsourcing everything that you can economically justify.
But he also has great tips about clawing time back by doing everything by email, filtering emails, and avoiding time-sucks that don’t either a) achieve something or b) provide enjoyable recreation. He gives helpful tips on avoiding those meeting-that-could-have-been-emails!
Still struggling for time?
If you are still struggling for time, other helpful tips include:
- Use videos in class (don’t feel bad) to give yourself a few minutes to complete administrivia in class
- See my other posts for great recommendations of videos about study skills, literature, visual note-taking, and using CrashCourse videos to introduce content
- Share tips and hacks with colleagues (see my #teacherlife Pinterest board for inspo)
- Use TPT resources if it will save you time (see my store)
- Find a teacher-buddy who teaches similar content to you and divide and conquer the work, or take turns doing the work