Time management – the thing teachers are always trying to do… We just never seem to have enough time to get things done. Right? I am consistently asked questions from teachers about how to effectively manage time. Here’s 9 strategies that really work.
1. Write a list. Then ruthlessly cull it.
Often times we have so many things running around our heads that it becomes increasingly difficult to really identify what it is that we need to do. Take a fresh piece of paper or start a new list in your phone or on your computer, and write down everything you can think of that you need to do. Get it out of your head. Then, and this is the most important part, CULL your list. That’s right, go through it and ruthlessly reduce it. Do you really need to do everything on that list. What would happen if you didn’t do it? Does it really matter? Reduce your list to the essentials.
2. Make time to plan your day.
The most important time in your day is the time you schedule to schedule your time. Every day, and I suggest the morning to do this, take the time to plan your day. What are the three or four essential tasks that you must complete today? Write these down and focus on completing them. Planning your day means that you get to exert some control over the use of the time during the day.
3. Rethink your routine.
Without regular review of our daily routine, we can easily get ‘stuck’ and find ourselves in a routine that really isn’t helping us to get the most out of every day. What do you typically do most days? Where do your days tend to go off-track? What parts of your routine really need changing in order for you to manage your time better?
4. Identify your most productive time of day.
Knowing when you are most productive is a key part of managing your time effectively. Some people work best in the mornings, other people work best later in the afternoons or evenings. What is best for you? When you know your most productive time of day, you can plan your routine and your task completion accordingly.
5. Batch process similar tasks together.
One of the best ways you can reclaim your time is to practice batch processing – grouping similar tasks together. For example, rather than checking email many times a day (like most of us are prone to do), schedule several times where you can focus on reading and responding to email. Batch processing can work with any kind of task that is regular and repetitive like photocopying and filing, as well as lifestyle tasks such as doing the laundry and running errands. Group these tasks together and schedule time to do them.
6. Find your time wasters.
Do you really need to check Facebook or Twitter one more time? Do you really need to check the sports channel again or read another series of news headlines? Reclaiming your time requires you to identify these things that sneakily waste our time. Try doing a time audit – keep track of how you spend your time over the coming hours, days and weeks. You might be surprised at how much time you lack due to your own unhelpful choices…
7. Don’t wait for motivation.
I have said this phrase for many years, ‘Motivation follows the action.’ If you sit and wait around for motivation to hit you and jump at you and move you into action then chances are you’ll be sitting for quite some time. I have found, especially for tasks that you aren’t very excited about, that motivation does come, but only after you take action. After you actually start, you’ll notice that motivation very quickly follows. And often, those tasks that we have been dreading and avoiding are the ones that actually don’t take too much time to complete!
8. Take a break.
This really is counter-intuitive. When we feel overwhelmed and time-poor, it seems ludicrous to stop and take a break. But actually, taking a break is one of the most helpful things you can do to reclaim your time. Too much mental stress can prevent you from getting organised and getting things done. Your brain needs a break and your body does too. Take a walk around the block, make yourself a cuppa, do something to regain perspective and re-energize you to use your time wisely. It really helps.
This week’s assignment:
Do a time audit. How do you spend your time? What are your time wasters? What tends to distract you from getting the most important things done? What changes could you make to your daily routine to help you be more effective?
Enjoy the journey,
And more importantly,
Enjoy the moments.
QUESTION: If you were mentoring a new teacher, what time management tips would you give them? I’d love to hear your comments here.