Time Management for Teachers: Plan time to make time!

It’s time to change the ‘Always On’ work culture, strike some balance, and manage our time effectively! 

Teachers have always been synonymously associated with multitasking and efficiency superpowers! Then came COVID and posed a challenge to teach, but learn how to teach digitally. We embraced that too! Here we are, four months in, learning EdTech, teaching students, managing families, and trying to find our own time. Let’s document those time management strategies & tricks to remember them in the long term. 

Time management is a crucial part of Practicing Professionalism, one of the domains of Highr’s Big 4 of Quality Teaching

Themes of Time Management

Before we begin our day, we subconsciously prioritise! However, our style of prioritising may differ based on our type of work, modus operandi, or typically how the day looks like. With the quantum of work and work-from-home mechanisms, courtesy COVID, it is imperative for us to categorise our tasks as per binaries of importance and urgency. 

This Eisenhower’s Time Management Matrix was popularised by Stephen Covey in his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The activities listed in the prototype below may differ for individuals, however, we must understand the essence of such bucketing! Urgent stuff does require your immediate attention, but it traps you with its popularity and pressure. But, mostly, they are unimportant! Important is what contributes to your goals. Therefore, we must be mindful of our categorisation as a response v/s reaction.  

Eisenhower’s Effective Time Decision Matrix

Q1 includes urgent and important tasks that should not take more than 5% of your time in planning. Q2 consists of important and not urgent activities where one usually does planning or building relationships. In this quadrant, your productivity is high, and you should spend 75% of your time here. 

Park your calls, emails and meetings in Q3 with urgent, yet unimportant stuff. Set a fixed time to check emails, if you need to write them, write and schedule. Q4 is our ‘sins of screen time’! This is where we hope to create healthy boundaries and cut off from social media handles and binge-watching. 

Staying in Q2 is crucial to the theme of prioritising. Next is the Time Audit! Once you have your priority tasks ready, create a to-do list, and plan for the future. The extent of future may also differ for each individual; could be a week or a month’s plan. Like we pace each section of our lesson plan, set a time limit for your tasks too! Put short buffers between your tasks to breathe, eat, exercise or spend time with family.    

Remember: If your tasks are time-bound, they automatically become your priority!

Check out RescueTime, Toggl and My Daily Planner to track and manage your time better. 

Key Themes of Time Management

With your tasks and allotted time done, our next theme focus is Smart Work. We got to ace this! Begin with time-bound or the most challenging tasks in the morning. That being said, if your productivity is owl-like, you may want to pursue important tasks at night. Another effective way to manage time and work seamlessly is to delegate and collaborate.  

Educators can plan their lessons together with teachers, or can flip the learning experiences with students. Flipped learning is basically flipping our traditional classroom model: Pre-record your guided lessons and share them with your learners. This practice also encourages self-paced student learning. 

With so much to do and our multitasking superpower, different tasks split our attention. Eliminate half work by distinguishing between what you should be doing v/s what others want you to do. Also, it makes our time management worse. We would take more time to accomplish one or all of those tasks, while being anxious and stressed about it. As you begin your day, let your family know of your schedule. 

The most successful and effective of all these themes is HABIT! Internalise these little methods discussed above and follow them consistently. Control your impulses and distractions (Note to self as I just picked up my phone to check buzzing notifications!).   

Quick technique: Pomodoro it!

Plan your tasks. Set your time-tracker for 25 minutes. Work. Break for 5! Repeat the cycle four times for 25 minutes each. Then, take a longer break.  This ancient Italian technique works best with a fresh mind!

Find YOU in time! 

Stressful news around, impractical expectations, burnouts, ‘Always on’ work culture—these are few of the many reasons for the increasing number of mental health issues around the globe. 

With blurred boundaries between work and home, we have to put a hard stop and learn to say NO! So, let’s remember the 6Ps that say Pitiful Poor Planning leads to Pitiful Poor Performance, and make way for Noddy our time!

Challenge #1: Simultaneous demand for devices

If our kid(s) have their classes at the same time as ours, we’re out of choices. Not really, why not plan for asynchronous activities or pre-recorded lessons for our students! Also, as educators, we may think about leveraging our family for our planning. This is gratitude time for helping our kids with their homework, cooking family’s favorite meals, and so much more. 

Challenge #2: Manage everything AND self

Go back to our themes of time management, and prioritise & plan! Most importantly, keep your workspace environment and table clean and organised. It makes heaps of a difference to your productivity! It’s basically the same as we ask our students to organise their desks before sitting to learn. Curate SMART goals, to-do lists and do your Q2 tasks when you are most productive!  

Challenge #3: Burnout

With the uncertainty of school education and lack of society’s and parents’ appreciation for us, burnouts are a scary consequence. But, Highr’s Teacher Tribe won’t let you burn out!

Marking to make our tasks simpler!

Make your teacher life easier by adopting some of these habits above. Use Flipgrid, Jamboard or Padlet for giving quick verbal feedback. ClassDojo also includes some stampers that can easily be awarded to your learners. Create student-friendly rubrics beforehand that can directly be used by learners as well as a peer-to-peer strategy for evaluation.   

Dear Teacher Tribe, you’ve all been doing great. Manage self to manage your time! Let’s learn to say ‘No, I will check this later when I can’. Reward yourself with a ‘Me-day’! 

Weekend Read: Find your Ma ~ a beautiful Japanese concept of space and time

Watch the full webinar here:

Time Management for Teachers