Time management for Teachers

Contributed by:
Sharp Tutor
This book includes great practical tips for getting organized, prioritizing, looking after yourself, and making the most of the time that you have available.
1. Time
for Teachers
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 1! ! ! ! !
by Steve Francis! ! ! ! ! ! Gr8people.com.au
2. Time Management for Teachers
Contents Too much to do? 3
Expert teachers 4
Two keys to time management 5
Before taking action 6
Where does your time REALLY go? 7
Common problems 8
Create time management goals 8
Just say “No”! 9
Getting organised 11
Organise your space 12
Declutter 13
Clogged cupboards 13
Filing 14
Using a computer to help 17
Organise your computer 18
Email - problem or solution? 21
Classroom routines and procedures 23
Distributing materials 24
Preparing for substitute teachers 24
Planning and preparation 25
Marking 26
Just do it! - overcoming procrastination 27
Prioritise ruthlessly 28
Using your time well 29
Reduce interruptions
Clear up backlogs
Group tasks together
Maximise your instructional time 30
More effective meetings 32
Delegating tasks 33
Preparing for events 34
Managing major projects 35
Look after yourself 36
Time saving tips 37
References 39
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 2! ! ! ! !
3. Too much to do?
Do you often feel that you have too much to do and not
enough time?
Do you feel like you are often playing ‘catch up’ and
missing deadlines?
Do you feel overwhelmed with what is expected of you as
a teacher?
Do you feel stressed by what you don’t get done?
Do you often work late or at weekends yet still feel there is
more to be done?
At times, teaching can be overwhelming. You have units
and lessons to plan, student work to mark, meetings to
attend, reports to write, budgets to submit, emails to
respond to, and, if there is any time left—lessons to teach.
There is so much to do, and only a limited amount of time
in which to accomplish it.
Time management for teachers is far more complicated than for office workers or in other
industries. Teachers face unique challenges:
• Much of the day is already scheduled. There is very limited leeway in altering a class
schedule, so teachers must work very efficiently with the very limited time that is flexible.
• An important component of a teacher’s role is to be available for students and parents
beyond the actual classroom teaching time.
• There are many other competing demands on teacher’s time including demands from
administrators, requests from the wider community, contributing to the school’s on-going
development and the need to continually professionally develop and update.
• Good teaching requires students to be engaged and suitably challenged. This requires high
levels of both energy and skill.
Research shows that the average classroom teacher will make more than 1 500 educational
decisions every school day. In an average 6-hour school day, that's more than four decisions every
minute. It is no wonder we feel over-whelmed by the demands of our profession.
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 3! ! ! ! !
4. Two keys to time management
Time doesn't change. No matter how organised
we are,
there are still always only 24 hours in a day.
All we can actually manage is ourselves and
what we do with the time that we have available.
It is VITAL that we learn to work both effectively
and efficiently. These two points are always the
key to achieving as much as we can with the
time we have available.
Time management is about control. When you
allow time to control you, you never have enough
of it. On the other hand, when you control your
available time, you can allocate your time
available to complete tasks and duties.
Time management is about using the time that
you have available as productively as possible.
It IS about working smarter – not harder.
There are still the same number of hours in a
day, days in a week and weeks in a year.
It is about how we use that time!
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 5! ! ! ! !
5. Where does your time REALLY go?
It is important to identify the key issues that are
contributing to inefficiency. Before starting out on a
time management plan you need to spend a few
days observing and reflecting. Watch for times
when you are not using your time efficiently. The
key question is always, “Is this the best use of my
Watch for problem areas where improvements in
systems or processes could make a positive impact.
For example, do you spend a considerable amount
of time explaining to students what they need to do
in order to make up missed assignments? Is your
time taken up by filing, emailing, phone calls,
disruptions, copying material, marking the roll,
repeating directions? Identify what your "time leaks"
are and then find a way to plug them. You may be
surprised at the activities that are soaking up your
valuable time.
It is also useful to monitor your own energy levels
and ability to concentrate. Try to identify the times of
the day when you are most effective. Do not try to
accomplish difficult tasks when you are tired. Save
those for your peak periods.
Are there ‘windows’ when you have a clear mind
and uninterrupted time?
Are you using these ‘windows’ effectively to do your
most important tasks?
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 7! ! ! ! !
6. Just say “No”!
If you have too much on your plate, just say no.
Whilst this may seem obvious, it is one of the most difficult things to learn.
An important point to keep in mind - if you attempt to do too much, you risk, at best, not completing
tasks to your standards, or at worst, burnout.
Teachers are special people. By our very nature, we are “people persons”. We like to go out of our
way to help others and especially to help our students to succeed.
But as teachers, we have a tendency to say “Yes!” too many times. We volunteer for too many
projects; we get on too many committees; we get involved in the lessons or units of our
colleagues; or we willingly take on duties simply because somebody asked us to.
I believe that it is important to have a strong work ethic and to work hard. Responsibilities as a
teacher are NOT limited to your own class and your own classroom.
It is important to achieve the satisfaction that comes from ‘making a difference’. Therefore you
should get involved beyond your own classroom. However it is far more effective to have a
significant impact in two or three areas than to have no impact in fifty areas because we are over
Teachers tend to be workaholics - it's the nature of the job. As a result, you're likely to be
confronted with lots of requests and lots of “invitations”. Use these ideas for saying “No” with style
and grace:
“I'd really like to, but I'm overcommitted right now and don't think I'd be able to do it justice.”
“Thanks for asking, but I really need to spend some more quality time with my children … my spouse … my
friends … myself.”
“I appreciate your confidence in me, but I have other tasks that demand a lot of my time at the moment.”
“I have a lot of commitments already on my calendar. Sorry I can’t help this time!”
“No thank you. I'm not ready to take on that additional responsibility just yet.”
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 9! ! ! ! !
7. Getting organised
Whilst organisation is one of the keys to time management,
many teachers find it very challenging. It seems to be part
of our personality profile. I am not convinced it is an ‘either
or situation’. I believe it is a continuum. Some are at the
buried in piles of “stuff” end and are way too disorganised.
Some others are anal about organisation, can retrieve even
the most trivial piece of paper in a nano second and spend
way too much time sorting and filing. "A place for
everything, and everything in its place," is their motto.
Great time managers are organised AND effective. They
use their time well without getting carried away and
becoming obsessive compulsive.
It is vital to use ONE daily planner or diary. Keep all your "to
do" lists there. Write everything on it that you need to
accomplish. Memories fail at times. Some teachers keep a
planner on their desk at all times, some use large desk
calendars. Whichever type you prefer, use it.
A big time waster, according to many teachers, is "hunting
and gathering”. Looking for that missing lesson plan,
trawling the internet, library and resource rooms for
resources, collecting and distributing classroom equipment
to students, searching out that IEP that was due yesterday,
procuring books for a unit and finding that missing form that
was due to the office yesterday. (If you are one of the lucky
ones who are already organised, skip ahead to the list of
time-saving tips.)
If you are one of the chronically disorganised, the task may
seem daunting. It is important to start with one area at a
time and work your way around your classroom. An
important place to start with is your own desk. The second
area for attention is your filing system. After you have
organised one area, give yourself a reward for a job well
The following sections include tips for getting organised.
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 11! ! ! ! !
8. There are basically three types of files.
Working files are the files you need
most days, eg class lists, anecdotal
records, assessment results as well as
folders on current projects. They should
be kept within arm’s reach. A hanging
drawer in your desk is ideal. Working
files should contain the following:
Fingertip and routine information
– these files contain important
information that you refer to often and
need at your fingertips eg phone lists
and any forms you regularly use.
‘To be Discussed’ files
– create a file for regular meetings (eg Staff Meeting, Year Level Meeting, Curriculum meetings)
and a file for each staff member you regularly interact with (eg Principal or Deputy, Curriculum Co-
ordinator, Learning Support Teacher). Use the file to put information that needs to be discussed at
that meeting or with that colleague. This saves time by raising relevant issues with the right people
at one pre-arranged time rather than a number of incidental, unprepared meetings.
Current projects files
– projects that you are currently working on (eg trips, camps, committee projects etc) should each
be contained in a file. Clean out these files at the beginning of each term to ensure they are
Tickler files
– establish files numbered from 1 to 31 (representing each day of the month) and a file for each
month of the year. The files are best arranged with the first numbered file being the current date
and then cycling back to 1 after 31.
The month files are then placed after the numbered files with the current month at the front. The
current day and month are at the front and are moved to the back of that section at the end of the
Use this system to store paperwork that is date sensitive. The Tickler file is designed to assist in
meeting deadlines. It works on the basis of considering when the task is due and making a
decision about when it will be undertaken.
The document is filed in the relevant Tickler file (the numbered file if it is in the next 31 days or the
relevant month if it is later). The document will then ‘surface’ on the designated date when you had
planned to undertake the task. It is essential that the Tickler file is checked each day. After
checking the Tickler file for the day you will have identified tasks that you have designated to
complete that day.
Having a look in the Tickler file should be done as part of the decision of what your priorities are.
A Tickler file also makes it easy to retrieve those forms that are always requested of teachers. File
it in the corresponding Tickler file.
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 15! ! ! ! !
9. Email - problem or solution?
The original problem of clutter was paperwork. Email is the new
millennium version and may be an even greater problem.
Although it is a wonderful communication tool it needs to be very
carefully managed or it can waste a huge amount of time and create
a vast amount of clutter.
The overuse of ‘Reply All’ and the ease with which we can send
(and be sent) a document means that we are being inundated with
even more information. This needs to be managed or we will lose even more time and be
swamped even more. Deleting emails is VITAL. Too many emails in your Inbox adds to your stress
levels, creates frustration that you don’t appear to be getting things done and is time consuming as
you try to retrieve documents.
It is important to move emails out of the Inbox. It is important to implement the ‘Do it now!’
philosophy. Wherever possible handle each email once. It is recommended that you follow these
1 Read the email only when you have time to action it. Turn OFF the sound alert that advises you
of incoming messages and resist the temptation to look at your emails at multiple times during
each day. Allocate two or three periods of time each day when you will just read and respond to
2 Delete if it isn’t necessary to save. Remember to ask yourself, “Could I get this information again
if I needed it?”
3 Reply, if possible, to complete the correspondence.
4 Make a decision about WHEN you will be in a position to respond and move the email message
to that date on your electronic calendar. (This is the same approach as using a ‘Tickler’ file - see
filing). If you are not sure how to do this with your operating system (eg Windows Vista, Windows
XP, MS Outlook, Mac etc) ask for help. Most programs also have a very useful ‘Help’ menu.
If you are not using an electronic calendar then create a Pending/Follow up folder in your email
software. Drag and drop the emails that you need further time to respond to. Return to these
emails once you have the required information.
5 If you want to store the email or an attachment save it into the relevant folder on your computer.
6 Watch out for mailing lists. Your IN box can quickly become filled with additional emails if you
subscribe to free mailing lists. If you are receiving emails that aren’t adding value, unsubscribe.
7 Before reading an email read the subject line and who sent it before opening it. Delete if
8 If your backlog of emails is too big to manage, set a cut off date, ie beginning of last term and
create an Archive folder in your email account. Save all emails before that date into the archive
folder. Most people won’t ever refer to these again. Delete the Archive folder at the end of the year.
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 21! ! ! ! !
10. Just do it! - overcoming procrastination
“The beginning is the half of every action” Greek proverb
‘Do it now!’ is the best way to get more done. Procrastinating by continually putting off tasks is a
HUGE time waster. The most significant change in behaviour that you can make is a commitment
to take action and NOT waste time procrastinating or doing things you ‘like doing’ but are a lower
priority than what you ‘should’ do ...
Most time efficiency experts advise that the first rule for improving personal efficiency is “Act on an
item the first time you read or touch it.”
For example a lot of time is wasted reading emails, intending to reply but then going on to
something else. Inevitably we re-read emails and other correspondence a number of times before
finally taking action.
The efficient response is to ‘Do it now!’ If you are not going to act on your paperwork, don’t waste
time looking at it. Needlessly re-reading your email or everything on your desk before acting
achieves nothing. Do it once!
“Procrastination is the thief of time” Edward Young
“The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started” Dawson Trotman
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 27! ! ! ! !
11. Maximise your instructional time
As a classroom teacher, you want to engage your students in productive learning time. This is time
when your students are engaged in meaningful and appropriate work. The more productive
learning time you have, the more your students will learn. The challenge, of course, is in creating a
classroom that maximises that time.
You may have less time to teach than you think. Lunch, breaks, down-time between lessons,
moving from one classroom to another, interruptions and other periods of non-instructional time
account for at least 27 percent of an elementary school day. In many classrooms, that figure
climbs beyond 40 percent.
Guard solid blocks of teaching time
With the many disruptions in a day it can be
worthwhile to look out for, and guard, any solid
blocks of teaching time that are available. You
might hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign outside
your door during those times.
Timetabling is a complicated and complex
task. However through working with the
person who arranges the timetable in your
school you can raise the awareness of the
need to have appropriate blocks of time. The
length of time that is ‘appropriate’ for your
class will depend on their age and the learning
intention. It may be worthwhile raising the
issue to secure your principal's help in scheduling withdrawal programs around those blocks and
ask parents not to schedule medical or dental appointments then.
To minimise lost time it is important to plan for smooth transitions between lessons. Transitions are
those times during the day when you move from one activity to the next. Because students work at
different paces and different levels, some may be able to make the transitions faster than others.
Transition time often leaves openings for misbehavior and disruptions. To avoid this it is important
to make your expectations for transitions clear and establish routines for transition times:
• Provide opportunities for students to practice those routines: “When you come in, be sure
you complete your ‘Ready! Checklist’ before you sit down.”
• Let students know when an activity will end: “In two minutes we'll have a whole-class review
of this problem solving approach.”
• Let students know what they can expect in any subsequent or follow-up activity: “After
lunch, we're going to continue working in reading groups.”
• Be sure your lessons have clear beginnings and endings. Review the lesson objectives
before the lesson begins and again at the conclusion of the lesson.
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 30! ! ! ! !
12. Time saving tips
Making Resources Homework trays Lining Up to See You
Whilst making resources is Obtain coloured baskets or Many students waste a lot of
time consuming, it is better to trays from your local office time if they have to line up to
take a little extra time to ‘do it supply store. Designate these wait to see you to have their
right’ and be able to re-use as homework bins for your work corrected.
resources again. For example students by colour:
laminating a sheet (eg a number In most instances it is more
facts grid) and using whiteboard Red efficient for you to go to them.
markers to practice allows you Place completed homework
to re-use the sheet. here. If they need to come to see
you set up a routine such as a
Using any available teacher Green list on the board when they
aide time efficiently is vital. Get your homework are ready.
assignment from here.
Whether making resources Once they are the next in line
yourself or asking an aide to Blue they rub their name off the list
prepare resources it is more Obtain homework and stand in the queue.
efficient to group tasks assignments that were given
together. out when you were absent That way you only have a
from this bin. maximium of two students
If you don’t have any teacher waiting. The one you are
aide time allocated to regularly Yellow working with and the next
support you, consider asking Place incomplete homework student.
for some ‘one off’ support to here. (This can alert you to
prepare some resources (eg students who did not understand Other students return to their
on a pupil free day). the assignment, had difficulty seat when their name is on
completing it, or simply chose not the list and continue their
to do it.)
If that isn’t possible consider work.
paying an aide to do a couple
of hours of work for you. It is Classroom greeter
important to consider how Assign and rotate the job of
much your time is worth to “classroom greeter” to
you. students on a weekly basis.
This person's responsibility is
to greet any and all persons
Moving Between Lessons who come into your
Try to use transition time classroom. This frees you to
between specialist lessons continue with a lesson rather
effectively. Chanting number than taking time out to attend
facts or playing mental games to the visitor. Most visitors are
(eg Buzz) can engage there to deliver information
children, help them to embed (the buses are late) or obtain
learning and use time information (student
efficiently. absences). Students can
easily handle these tasks.
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 38! ! ! ! !
13. References
Gleeson, K., The Personal Efficiency Program, 2004
K.J. Wagner, M.A., Education Oasis™, 2004
Steve Francis MScM, BEd, Dip T has
over 20 years teaching experience as a
classroom teacher, teaching principal
and principal.
After working in a range of schools
across Queensland he ventured with
his wife and family to Hong Kong. For
four years Steve was the Principal of a
large international primary school.
After four great years of adventure the
family returned to Brisbane to take on
new challenges.
Since returning in 2008 Steve has
worked on a range of projects to
support teachers and school leaders to
reach their potential.
The gr8 people resources are helping
busy schools align their programs and
simplify the complex task of teaching.
Through leadership programs,
professional development and speaking
at conferences Steve encourages all to
make the most out of life.
Life is NOT a dress rehearsal - this is
the real thing. Live for today!
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 39! ! ! ! !
14. Time management
for Teachers
Do you often feel that you have too much to do and not enough time?
Do you feel like you are often playing ‘catch up’ and missing deadlines?
Do you feel overwhelmed with what is expected of you as a teacher?
Do you feel stressed by what you don’t get done?
Do you often work late or at weekends yet still feel there is more to be done?
Time management for teachers is complicated. Teachers face unique challenges:
• Much of the day is already scheduled. There is very limited leeway in altering a class
schedule, so teachers must work very efficiently with the very limited time that is flexible.
• An important component of a teacher’s role is to be available for students and parents
beyond the actual classroom teaching time.
• There are many other competing demands on teacher’s time including demands from
administrators, requests from the wider community, contributing to the school’s on-going
development and the need to continually professionally develop and update.
• Good teaching requires students to be engaged and suitably challenged. This requires
high levels of both energy and skill.
This book includes great practical tips for
getting organised, prioritising, looking after yourself
and making the most of the time that you have available.
Time Management For Teachers ! ! ! 40! ! ! ! !
by Steve Francis! ! ! ! ! ! Gr8people.com.au