Teaching inherently takes up a lot of time. Not only is there the time spent in the classroom, but there’s also the time spent lesson planning, grading, running clubs, keeping up with professional development, attending school functions, and more. As a result, time management for teachers is essential. Not only can it help you get more out of your day, but it can also help you prevent burnout. This is especially important given the record number of teachers experiencing burnout. While there may be structural changes that need to be made on the admin and district level, these time management tips for teachers can help set you up for success ahead of back-to-school.
1. Organize and schedule your priorities for the day.
Setting up a schedule is key to managing your time as a teacher, both during class and outside of it. To organize your schedule, identify what your top, middle, and low priorities are, and write it down if you find that helpful. Next, consider and reflect on your students’ energy and your own throughout the day. Perhaps your students tend to return from recess with a ton of energy. Planning more social activities or active lesson plans to be right after recess could help channel students’ energy into a productive learning moment.
Varying the types of tasks students complete throughout the day can also be beneficial. Rather than schedule high-priority, high-focus tasks one right after the other, consider alternating them with more restorative activities like a simple art project or quiet reading time. This way, both you and your students have some time to recharge before moving onto the next priority. You can also make sure your students understand what the day’s schedule and priorities are using classroom decor, learning objectives, and bulletin boards.
2. Get things done with to-do lists.
This teacher time management tip may sound basic, but having a to-do list can give you a bird’s eye view of what needs to get done. When writing your list, try to make sure it’s realistic. You can group tasks by what needs to get done daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly in order to help with this. For example, organizing materials may be a daily task, but sending out a parent newsletter might be a weekly or monthly task.
You can also save time by chunking the same types of tasks together. Checking all of your emails first, then doing all your grading for the day, then doing your parent communication can be faster than switching back and forth among the 3 tasks. If a task on your list sounds overwhelming, however, consider breaking it down into smaller, more manageable steps.
Lastly, consider the importance and impact of the tasks on your list. The time management matrix breaks work down by labeling it as urgent or not urgent, and important or not important.
This creates 4 categories of work to split your list into:
- Important-Urgent Tasks, which have set deadlines with clear consequences.
- Important-Not Urgent Tasks, which contribute to your goals but don’t have set deadlines.
- Not Important-Urgent Tasks, which have to be done but don’t require your specific skills—making them great tasks to delegate or do in bulk.
- Not Important-Not Urgent Tasks, which can be distractions if not done in moderation.
While this to-do list will look different for every teacher, this chart can help you narrow your focus to get the most done with your limited time.
3. Establish boundaries around your time — take a break.
Being a teacher is a demanding job, making teacher time management as challenging as it is important. It’s essential to set boundaries around your time and protect your mental health as teaching can sometimes feel like a 24/7 job. Taking personal time for yourself and stress-relieving activities can help stave off burnout. And when you’re rested, you have more energy to teach at your best. Try setting working hours on your calendar and stick to them. You can also block specific chunks of time on your calendar for rest and relaxation, just like you would book a meeting. And it is a meeting – a meeting of your needs.
4. Create routines for yourself.
Just like creating routines can help with classroom management, it can also help you manage your time and workload as a teacher. Set routines for your morning work, lesson planning time, bulk tasks to do while students complete individual activities and assessments, blocks to check emails, etc. Your time before, during, and after school should work for you. And if you’re facing challenges in getting a routine and schedule that works for you, you’re not alone. Reach out to your peers, admins, and even the TPT community to help find the classroom solutions you need.
5. Grade smarter, not harder.
Grading can quickly become a time-consuming task, so it’s important to think about it strategically. There are many different ways you can go about grading in order to add time back to your schedule. Here are a few to help you:
- Grade daily in small chunks: Rather than waiting until your grading pile is overwhelmingly large, try grading for a set amount of time each day. This way your stack of papers stays small and manageable.
- Utilize self-checking and auto-grading tools: This is where digital learning platforms can really shine and save time in the classroom. By using platforms and resources like Easel Activities and Assessments, you can set the answers once and leave the rest to the tech.
- Consider assigning homework weekly: Rather than passing out and grading homework everyday, save some time by bundling it into weekly chunks and considering how much practice is necessary for your students.
- Embrace peer- and self-grading: Go over answers to work in class while allowing students to either check their own work or one of their classmates’ work. You can then use the time to address students’ questions and identify any learning gaps.
- Check for completion where possible: This can work particularly well for classwork or homework assignments that are more subjective, or have clear right and wrong answers that can be addressed by sharing an answer key.
6. Use teacher-made templates and resources.
Why reinvent the wheel when it’s at your fingertips? Save time by using resources that teachers like you have created, tested, and used. You can find templates for lesson plans, grade books, and newsletter here, or you can search through the TPT Catalog for grade- and subject-specific resources that will help you help your students not only during back-to-school, but all year.