How can a teacher manage to find time during the day to get things done? In providing teacher time management training for school districts, I recognize that using time management in education at the teacher level is difficult because you face unique challenges:
• Your time is booked every day. There is no leeway in altering a class schedule, so you must work within the very limited planning periods.
• An important component of your job is to be available for students and parents beyond the actual classroom sessions.
One very effective method for teachers to save time is to group activities as much as possible. With this process you can use to maximize those all-too-short blocks of time so that you can lessen the amount of work you drag home every evening.
You are four times more productive when you can focus on one type of task rather than switching back and forth among assorted tasks. Constant multitasking slows you down. While you can never eliminate all of the interruptions in your day because you do need to be responsive to students, make the best use of the short periods of time that you do have.
What activities are effective when grouped?
Telephone. Set aside a time when you will make and return non-urgent phone calls. It might be 15 minutes in the morning and another 20 minutes in the afternoon. Work toward keeping routine calls within that block. Your voice mail message can notify callers that you will get back to them within 24 hours. This sets parameters and is still responsive.
Email. Electronic messages can easily dominate your day. Turn off the sound or alert that advises you of incoming messages. Just as with telephone calls, set a block of time each day when you focus on just your email. An auto-responder message lets people know when they might expect to hear back from you.
Discussions. If you confer frequently with certain colleagues or administrators, set up a “Discuss with…” folder and collect items during the day so that you can cover all points during just one meeting. This limits interruptions for both of you. Encourage others to have a folder for you also.
Reading. For articles and publications that do not have an action date, keep them together in a “Casual Reading” file. The reading is in one place to grab when you have a break after lunch, a doctor’s appointment, or another waiting time. This reading block can include both paper and electronic information.
Filing. Even if you have a terrific filing system and you know where to put all your reference papers, do not stop and file each individual item as it comes in. Wait until you have a folder of papers, and file them as a group instead of making individual trips to the file cabinet.
It will take practice to develop the habit of grouping your activities in order to limit multitasking, but the resulting increase in productivity is worth the effort.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Denise Landers is the author of Destination: Organization, A Week by Week Journey. She helps businesses and individuals accomplish more with productive office systems. Reach her at (602) 412-3876 or firstname.lastname@example.org.