5 Ways to Fight Teacher ‘Time-Sucks’

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How to Manage Your Tasks, Maximize Your Time, & Still Make a Difference

Maybe the new school year has just started for you. Or maybe you’ve been hard at work for a few weeks. One thing is probably certain: You’re looking for ways to maximize your time—and make this year your most productive yet!

As teachers, we all start off with good intentions:

“This year I won’t waste time on unnecessary tasks and busywork.”
“This year I’ll focus on the essentials that most benefit my students.”
“This year, I’ll ensure that MY time is valued, respected, and used responsibly.”

Easier said than done? NO! With a few simple tips, you really can manage your classroom time in ways that benefit you and your students.

1. Stop Grading So Much. Most teachers have to enter a certain amount of grades per week. Some of those grades are big and meaningful assessments; others might be for smaller, less important assignments. And then some are “filler” … simply because you don’t want to get in trouble for not having enough grades.

But here’s what I know: You don’t HAVE to grade EVERYTHING. So stop it!

Getting a grade is not a necessary component of learning. Determine what the super-meaningful work is. And then decide if taking a score is going to shift what you teach and also give you a good indicator of your students’ level of understanding of a concept. (Need some help with that? Our Standards-Based Grading workshop can show you how to transform your grading system!)

2. Get rid of the non-essentials. We have way too many standards to teach. So the first step is to understand that you can’t teach and treat all standards the same. If you do, your students will leave with surface-level knowledge they won’t retain.

Instead, prioritize your standards. I do this all the time with schools who hire me to help them focus on the essentials. Which standards get 50-75% of your instruction time? Which get 25-50% of your instruction time? Lastly, which ones do you need to mostly (or totally) let go?

If you want high growth, then you need to narrow your focus!

3. Take responsibility for your day. How many times during the school day do you get caught up chatting with a coworker? Or take “just a peek” at your social media accounts? Or get sidetracked by all the little things that can pop up during the day?

Often, we think we’re working productively, when in reality, we’ve managed to get ourselves completely off-task. That’s why you have to become aware of the “time sucks.” Be honest about what your day really looks like, take note of the things that distract from your goals—and then trim the fat!

(Truth bomb: I’m often guilty of this, so I’ll be joining you in doing this work!)

4. Let go of perfectionism. “Perfectionism is the lowest standard you can hold yourself too.” I heard this quote recently, and it’s really stuck with me. And it’s something teachers should adopt as a mantra!

Let’s be real: Most teachers are “Type A” perfectionists. We’re hardwired for it … and if we’re being honest, it’s a little bit of a high striving to achieve near-impossible standards.

But with that high comes the lows. Perfectionism often keeps us working longer hours than we need to. It keeps us from acting on new ideas or adopting new methods for fear we won’t do them perfectly.

Perfectionism steals from your life. So drop your superhuman standards, and see if you don’t feel lighter. And as a bonus, you’ll probably shed some minutes (maybe hours) off your work week!

5. Work hard while you’re at school—and then leave. Your goal should be to head out the school’s door by 4:00 pm, 90% of the time. No, I’m not kidding … it’s totally possible!

The 2019-2020 school year could be your best, most productive yet if you just make a few shifts in your routine. Who’s ready to make that happen?

(As you’re working on your school schedule this year, be sure to block off time to attend one of Strobel Ed’s fall workshops! We’re bringing Genius Hour, Growth Mindset, Standards-Based Grading, and Trauma-Informed Schools to locations near you. Find a workshop—and register early for best savings!)

SHARE WITH THE CLASS: What are your favorite time management tactics? And what positive changes have you seen since implementing them? Tell us in the comments below.

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