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As a teacher, effective time management is crucial, yet many educators, including myself, never received formal training in this area during our undergraduate years. It wasn’t until later in my career, during my graduate program, that I learned the importance of managing time efficiently. In this podcast, I’ll share strategies that transformed my approach to time management, specifically tailored for secondary career and technical education teachers juggling multiple preps.

Prioritizing Tasks

Focus on the Minimum Viable Product

One of the biggest challenges is determining priorities amidst a sea of tasks. Learn to identify the minimum viable product—what is essential for student success. Consider methods like categorizing tasks into must-dos, nice-to-dos, and new additions. Keep your priority list short, ideally three to five items, ensuring you can accomplish them within your available time.

Chunking Tasks

Break down tasks into smaller, manageable chunks. For example, instead of a vague task like “plan tomorrow’s lesson,” specify the components: creating copies, writing instructions, and preparing worksheets. This approach makes prioritization clearer and tasks more achievable.

Varying Time-Blocking Techniques

Leverage Your Class Periods

As a secondary teacher, you already work in time blocks due to class periods. Extend this concept to before and after school. Assess your energy levels during different times of the day—whether you’re a morning person or more productive in the afternoon. Align your tasks with your energy peaks for maximum efficiency.

Setting Boundaries

Establishing Work-Life Balance

Recognize the value of setting boundaries on when you work and respond to emails. Avoid constant email checking—designate specific times for this. Communicate these boundaries clearly to parents and administrators. Consider adding an email signature or autoresponder indicating your typical email-checking times. Removing email notifications from your phone grants you control over when you engage with your inbox.

Time Limits for Tasks

Set time limits for tasks to avoid endless work. Decide how long you’ll spend on a particular activity or how late you’ll stay at school. Be intentional about when you extend your work hours and when you prioritize leaving earlier for family time.

Conclusion

In summary, effective time management for multiple prep secondary teachers involves prioritizing tasks, leveraging time blocks strategically, and setting boundaries. By implementing these strategies, you can not only survive but thrive in your role as an educator. Take control of your time, enhance your productivity, and strike a balance between being an effective teacher and prioritizing essential relationships.

I wish as an undergrad I’d had a time management course and specifically on managing your time as a teacher. I’m sure there was some sort of like freshman course that I probably could have taken about how to handle the load of college or university. That’s not really what I would have really benefited from but maybe I could have but if it was something to like relate to how to manage what I was going through at the time as a student but then how that could translate to a professional would have been really helpful and it wasn’t until I was in my graduate program to become.

an administrator that we went over how to effectively use our time. And I think the reason that we did it was because the instructor at the time was a former superintendent and he knew how important and valuable that skill was and is to this day. And so it was probably my 11th year in education that I really got good at effectively using my time.

And so I’m going to be sharing some of those ideas and strategies with you today about effectively using your time as a teacher. Yes, in the introduction I mentioned, this was not until year 11 or 12 that I really figured this out, but looking back in hindsight, there are some.

Things that I was doing as a teacher to support teaching multiple preps, that really did help me use my time more wisely. But it wasn’t until I was an administrator that I really had to get my ducks in a row. So we’re going to be sharing with you some of those things that I learned that I still use today to help get the most things done during the school day.

But before we dive in, I want you to think about how having effective time management, how that can affect your teacher quality and your work life balance. And then also think about what is it that you would love to have when it comes to effective time management? How would you like your day to look and why is that important?

Once you get those figured out, we’re going to go into some of the things that really have transformed my education career. And the first thing is with prioritizing tasks.  This is one of the hardest things to do because everything seems important. And not only is everything important, or seems that way, but then you keep getting more things added to your list.

 The administration is asking you to do something. You’ve got other teachers asking you to do things. You’ve got parents asking you to do things and students. And so it’s really hard for you as a teacher to figure out where the priorities are. In Episode 127, we talked about some of the different ways of manufacturing that can help you with your teaching.

And one is the idea of a minimum viable product. So when you’re looking at your prioritization, you’re wanting to really focus on, okay, what is the minimum viable product that I need to output, that my students need to output to be successful, and then create your task list based on that. Another method that I have liked to use is where you have task that must get done, and then things that would be nice to get done, and then other things that may have been added to your plate within that day.

So maybe you got an email that said that you needed to attend an IEP, and maybe you needed to bring some information with you. That would be on the other, so that will be at some point, it will be important. But when you’re sitting down during your planning time, it may not be at the top of the list right now.

Having those different categories, it makes it so that you For sure, we’ll get done those things that you feel like need to be done, and I would limit it, depending on the amount of time that you have, to three to five items. And you also need to think about chunking those items or breaking down those items so that they can be smaller, so that it’s not some vague thing like, plan tomorrow’s lesson.

But you’ve got the planning of the lesson, and then what does that entail? Does that entail creating copies, writing these out, making worksheets? What exactly does that mean? And planning that lesson could end up being five things. It could be five different tasks that make up that. And that is the idea of what you would have for your priorities.

The next thing to think about. is some varying time blocking techniques. As a secondary teacher, you may or may not realize it, but you are ahead of the game when it comes to time blocking because we are set up on class periods. So you are used to having a bell begin and end each of your class periods.

Naturally, your world runs in time blocks, at least during the school day. You need to also think about your time blocks that exist before school starts. After school ends. And then maybe where there’s some time blocks in between that. Those chunks of time. When you are also thinking about your time blocking, really think about what your energy level is like during that time.

Are you a morning person? Can you get a lot of things done in a half an hour before school starts? Or would you rather do those tasks after school? As you are figuring out Once again, going back to that prioritization, when you’re figuring out what tasks need to be done, you can be strategic about when you plan to do those and in which time blocks it will be the most effective and efficient.

For me, after lunch, was never good. My prep period one year was right after lunch. And one thing that was really hard was for me to finish lunch on time. I would tend to drag it on, so I really had to work on really condensing down and eating lunch as if I had a class so that I could utilize that planning period afterwards.

But the other thing too is I was so tired. Cognitive load Tasks were not saved for that class period. I actually was better in the morning and so I would have the harder things or I guess the more cognitive where I had to think a lot more, I would do those things before school started and then I would do things like copies or maybe checking my email.

That’s what I would do during my . planning period because at that point of the school day, I was exhausted and needed to get ready for that next class period. The final strategy or secret that will really help you with your time management is setting boundaries. Now, sometimes setting boundaries can seem Selfish.

You could feel guilty because you are here to serve students and parents, but in reality, it has made the biggest difference. And setting boundaries on when you are going to be working, when you are going to be responding to emails. One. thing that I did a lot when I was first teaching was I would check my email constantly, constantly, and then I would reply to them immediately.

But then I started to set the boundary that I’m at school from this time to this time, and this is when I’m going to be checking my emails. And people need to remember Parents especially, admin as well, that you’re teaching. Your job is to be teaching, not to be checking emails. So if people get upset because you don’t immediately respond to their emails, you can kindly remind them that you were instructing your class and you were spending time with your students.

You could also include in your email signature the time of the day that you typically check your emails. Say, Thank you for sending me this email and you could have an auto responder. Sometimes that will satisfy people because they are getting an instant response saying that you received their email, but you check your emails once a day and you will be getting back to them as soon as possible.

They at least had that endorphin rush that they did get a response from you, even though It was an autoresponder. So having that really has helped out. The other thing is, is taking off your notifications off of your phone, especially when you are at home for your email specifically. I still will check my email, but I feel like I have control over when I check those emails because I’m not getting constantly alerted as to when an email comes in.

I am choosing to check my email and then I’m also choosing whether or not I respond to it. No one knows what that I got an email or not on the weekend. I can respond to it whenever I want. So those boundaries have been very helpful. The other thing that really helps is to set a time limit for how long you are going to work on a task or how long you’re going to stay at the school.

Maybe on certain days of the week, you can stay longer, and so you’re choosing to stay until 4, 5, 6. Maybe on other days, you are choosing to stay a shorter time. So you know that on these days, I’m willing to stay later. On these days, I’m going to be leaving earlier so that I can spend time with my family.

Those are some ideas of some boundaries that can really help you. As we recap, the three secrets of effective time management for your multiple prep secondary teachers are prioritizing tasks, making sure that you are prioritizing those that focus on your minimum viable product. Second is using your time blocks effectively.

Also thinking about your energy levels and how those fit into the time blocks and then when you’re going to be completing those tasks and then finally creating boundaries, but then also sticking to them.

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