Time management can be the maker or breaker of teachers and parents alike. With endless to-do lists and last-minute tasks, it can be impossible to keep your head above water. If you are tired of drowning in the drudgery, keep reading for more time management advice for teachers and tips for tired teacher-parents trying to tame the chaos.
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. But alas, there were always chores left that needed doing and dinner that needed making. I definitely could’ve used some time-management tips to try and make the most of my downtime!
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 and parenthood.
So how do you try to get it all done, without drowning in the drudgery?
Time management for teachers: Tip 1 – use a block schedule
One of the best time management for educators tips is to create a block schedule (see the link to see a video on what a block schedule is and how to create one for yourself).
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, and 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 9 am; Class B at 10 am etc. You would probably then stay at work and finish some marking, do some lesson prep, make phone calls, or suffer through meetings.
When you got home, your evening block might involve getting kids from school or daycare. Doing any after-school activities. And then you are probably cooking and eating dinner, getting the kids to bed, and cleaning up.
Your nighttime 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, read a book, and go to sleep.
If you are a stay-at-home parent…
work-from-home parent, or part-time-teacher-parent, your block schedule might look something like mine.
Some days you will have similar blocks to someone working full-time (morning, work, evening, night), but more of your blocks may involve taking care of kiddos or domestic tasks because you have extra days at home.
I have a morning, work, afternoon/evening, and night-time block. Mornings include making breakfast, feeding the kiddos, and getting everyone ready to leave the house. Usually to do some kid-related activity (like school drop off or playgroup). Or to go to work on work days.
On at-home days…
I would usually try to squeeze in a workout before feeding the kiddos at lunch. And there was likely a snack thrown into the morning block too.
And after that was the holy grail, the quietest time of my day (if all went to plan): naptime. Naptime was my work block when I was a full-time stay-at-home parent. It meant I got an hour of time to work on my TPT business if I was lucky.
Sadly, my kiddos are too old to take naps now. And when they do take naps, we all know we’re going to be up until the ridiculous hour of 10.30 pm to go to sleep.
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 activities like painting, drawing, or going for a walk. During this time I also try to do other household chores/errands such as prepping dinner because of course the kiddos need to eat. Again.
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 with 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. Using this tactic for time management helps reduce stress because it helps you juggle all the things and keeps you focused on what you’re doing in each block.
Pre-kiddos, I DID NOT do school work at home. Except for occasional 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 judgment please, I’m Aussie, and “chucking a sickie” is a beautiful, beautiful cultural quirk that is a much-loved part of our national larrikin psyche).
Instead of working at home after school, I prioritized 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. Usually, I’d be there an hour after classes finished.
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 on my to-do list.
Now that I have kids…
I have to be a little more flexible about working on work at home, but in the last six months of being back in the classroom, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done work at home.
And two of those times were when my kiddos were sick and I had to get work ready early in the morning for substitute teachers. (Insert face-palm here).
Now, if you have school or daycare pick-ups, this might not work for you 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 full time
- teaching part-time and caring for kids
- or 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.
Time management for teachers: Tip 2 – eat the frog
Ok, time management for educators tip number two is to… Eat the frog? Huh? 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.”
Basically, this means that you should get the hard, high-value stuff (eating the frog) out of the way first.
If you were running a business, the first 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 the *most* pain tomorrow if you don’t do them today.
Teachers’ 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.
Teacher time management tip 3: Have a routine
Time management for teachers tip number three is to have a routine about when and how 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, when my children were babies and toddlers, I didn’t do one big house clean each week. Instead, I tackled one or two chores each day.
I cleaned the bathrooms/toilets on a Wednesday morning before playgroup. And I set the robot vacuum going on Tuesdays and Saturdays, as by then the ground was usually getting grubby.
I did laundry on an as-needed basis during the week and usually put it away on the weekend.
Monday nights I usually did life admin: paid bills, read emails, researched insurance, or looked at our budgeting. I usually meal planned on Friday night (I know, SUPER exciting, right?) and ordered groceries online so I could pick them up over the weekend.
I wiped down the kitchen each day (wiped the benches, washed the dishes, loaded the dishwasher, etc) while my husband did the kiddos’ baths.
This system worked well when doing chores in a big chunk just wasn’t feasible. I got the idea from YouTube videos where different people outlined their helpful cleaning ‘systems’ that can show you how to keep your house clean (for a small fee of course!). But if you refuse to pay money, this channel has reviews of a few different systems such as FlyLady, CleanMama, and Organized Mom Method).
Breaking up the chores into smaller chunks that I did throughout the week meant that I didn’t *usually* get overwhelmed.
But, it meant that everything is kinda in a state of being half-done.
Sounds very zen…
But my house was never clean from top to bottom.
The kiddos sometimes ran out of clean underwear necessitating a dig through the clean-laundry pile. And I often scratched my head trying to work out what I bought at Kmart three weeks ago that cost $3.73.
But having a routine of who does which jobs and when they do them meant that everything *generally* got done. And it also saved (and still saves) my sanity.
Now that my kids are a little older and no longer try to suck on the toilet scrubbing brush, I tend to clean the house once a week in a big chunk. Because I can do it while they’re home and playing by themselves, that time has opened up a little.
But, I still set a time limit of an hour and do the most important things first – scrub the toilets, wipe sinks, and vacuum. If there’s time left over, or the tiles are gross, I mop. Then I hop in the shower and clean the shower while I’m in there.
Time management for teachers: Tip 4 get caffeinated
You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I even used to set out the tea/coffee stuff the night before so that I could be caffeinated simply by boiling the kettle and pouring in the water and milk in the morning.
Because caffeine is essential and my baby.was.heavy.
This sounds very OTT (or OCD?), but having little systems like this in place helped (and continues to help) me to (generally) keep all the balls in the air while doing the teacher-parent-life juggle.
Time management for educators: Tip number 5
Being organized is tip number five on the time management for teachers list.
Okay, yeah, you know this, you’re a teacher. Being organized 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 organized include:
- menu planning and meal prepping,
- where the leaving-the-house gear (eg: backpacks, shoes, jackets, hats etc) live
- 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 know your own pain points though.
Hate having to work out what’s for dinner after a long day? Menu plan and meal prep.
Stressed out about 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 spick and span). Or hire a cleaner (#goals).
Loathe paying bills each week? Automate them so they’re deducted from your account without you having to devote brain space to it.
Teacher time management tip number 6: Have running to-do lists
Time management tip for teachers number six is to 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.
Now, you could re-write one every day. But that’s kinda neurotic, not to mention a waste of time. A better idea might be to write a list out at the start of the week or Sunday night before the work week, and then have that as your list for the week.
I have a giant business to-do list that I have in a business notebook. I also have long-term to-do items and product ideas written in a different notebook.
My husband and I 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 I will do different tasks during the week.
Now, if you’re one of those people who find a bit list overwhelming, you might like to aim smaller, and just have your 3 main tasks for each area of your life as your list. Check out this video to find out how that may actually work better for you.
How can you learn more about these awesome time management skills?
Some of these tips came about from trial and error. Others came from YouTubers and authors.
Time management books
Lorraine Murphy explains how to establish effective routines in her book Get Remarkably Organised. She also suggests doing things such as doing a time audit to see where your time is actually being spent and reflecting on whether or not you want your time spent in that way. She has links to helpful time management tools such as apps and log sheets to track your time.
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!
Time management videos
Other great YouTube channels with time management videos to check out include:
All of these YouTube channels have great information about topics such as
- Time management habits
- Time management tools
- Meal planning
- Time management techniques
- And motivation
Still struggling to manage your 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