Ending to the To-Do List–Four Habits To Improve Your Time Management at School

Last night, I attended an evening meeting for a Teacher Leader Board that I am on. The meeting started with the opportunity for each teacher to share two words that described how they felt over winter break/in their first week back at school. Overwhelmingly, the most popular word shared was “stressed.” As teachers, we constantly feel that there is never enough time. There is always another paper to grade. There is always another email to answer. There is always another plan to create. Many of my teacher friends talk about their never-ending to-do lists and the fact that this ongoing to-do list is the source of their stress and anxiety. Even when teachers are not actively doing work, it is likely that they are thinking about work. We all know that this overworking, whether physically or mentally, is not sustainable.  This is one of the major factors of the high burn-out rate for teachers. This year I am on a mission to make this constant “workxiety” come to an end. If you have read any of my other previous posts, you know that this is the main purpose of my blog. I started the new year with a more positive attitude, and somehow, the mindset that I refuse to be unhappy has already made me feel better!

While I struggle with managing my stress and anxiety at times, I have found a few strategies that have helped me ALMOST eliminate my overworking.  This school year I have tried to do as little work at home as possible, and it is my hope that as I develop my use of these strategies, I will be able to COMPLETELY eliminate working from home in 2017. So far this week (it’s only Wednesday), I haven’t done any work at home–this includes checking and responding to work emails. I haven’t even thought about the work that I have at school waiting for me in the morning.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to make the most of my school day so that I can enjoy my personal life when I’m at home:

  1. I make a Daily Schedule instead of a Daily To Do List—I honestly believe that this practice will change how you think about your day and how you approach your work. While I keep a list of things that I need to get done within the day/week, I take this list a step further and sort it into a Daily Schedule. I break up my necessary tasks into the periods that I have free throughout the day. For example, let’s say that on a given day, I have a lesson plan to complete, papers to copy, and an assignment to grade (x5 classes worth). I have periods 2, 4, and 5 as my prep periods, so I would split up these tasks into these periods that I have available. By making a daily schedule, I ensure that I set aside time for each task I need to complete. While I make a daily schedule before school each morning, this is what my weekly schedule looks like: Weekly School Schedule. I hope that this resource can you help you start to think about how to make a Daily Schedule for yourself so that you can use your time as efficiently as possible!
  1. I set my timer—When I feel particularly stretched thin, I set my timer and before beginning a task. Knowing that I have a set amount of time to finish something helps me to stay more focused on completing it. While this strategy may not work for everyone, and in fact, might make some people feel anxious, for me, this makes work like a little game. I try to accomplish as much as I can within this limited amount of time, while making sure that my speed does not change the quality of the work I am doing. This helps me cross things off of my Daily Schedule at a much quicker pace and feel more accomplished in my day.
  1. I do one thing at a time—When you feel like you have so much to do, multitasking can seem tempting. However, I know that when I multitask, I actually end up spending more time completing individual tasks than if I were to work on them independently. Because of this, I have forced myself to do one thing at a time. If I’m planning, I’m planning. If I’m grading, I’m grading. That’s it. Again, this helps me to cross things off of my Daily Schedule and to complete the tasks I have assigned within my day.
  1. I check my email three times a dayDISCLAIMER: This is a new strategy for me this week and so far I have been KIND OF successful. I am trying this strategy as part of my “Do one thing at a time.” Leaving my email open can be distracting and can take lots of time out of my schedule if I check and answer emails here and there throughout the day. I have only answered a couple of emails outside of my designated times, but I am going to keep trying this strategy and will report back with an update soon! (See my Weekly Schedule above to see my email times).

With these strategies in my back pocket, I am starting to truly believe that not working from home can be possible! I am hoping that these strategies will help you think about how to frame your workday as well! Do you have strategies you use to make the most of your working hours? Share the love and add them to the comments section below! Here’s to hard work and less stress in 2017!

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