“Time and space are not conditions of existence, time and space is a model for thinking.” — Albert Einstein
Everyone says: “If I had more time I would …” or “There isn’t enough time in the day to …” or even “I need more time!” When it comes to time, most people view it through a scarcity lens, thinking there is never enough of it. It’s hard to maximize time.
For educators in particular, the time constraints of a school day, fixed schedules during the day and the amount of energy it takes just to be an effective educator all affect how time is viewed and managed. The fact is, everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. However, successful educators (and people in general) know how to be creative with time (and their energy) so it works for them, not against them.
A few simple shifts in mindset and habits can make all the difference in helping you become a true master of your time.
The last few years have been a very challenging time. A June survey by RAND Corp. confirmed what most are reading and feeling: Many teachers and leaders are stressed out, burned out, and quitting. Additionally, more than a quarter are experiencing depression.
According to an Education Week article about the study, “Nearly three-fourths of teachers and 85 percent of principals are experiencing frequent job-related stress, compared to just a third of working adults. Fifty-nine percent of teachers and 48 percent of principals say they’re burned out, compared to 44 percent of other workers.”
As such, self-care for educators is not a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-do. And it’s one way to help maximize time.
Self-care is different for everyone, and just saying “take care of yourself” isn’t enough. While some districts are offering mental health days for teachers and staff, you need to know you deserve a break. Give yourself permission to take time for yourself each day, even if it’s taking five deep breaths at lunch or going for an evening walk.
Mental well-being matters.
Prioritize daily goals
One of the biggest time-sucks is procrastination. Many times, it is easy to fall into a procrastination trap because you don’t know how to get started, don’t want to get started or are just too overwhelmed by everything to even know where to begin.
To maximize time and make the most of each day, decide what you want and need to get done. Ask yourself: What are my priorities for today? What are the most important tasks I need to accomplish? And, after taking a moment to think about the rest of the week: What do I have to do? What do I want to do?
Identifying the tasks and priorities is the first step in mastering time. Another tip to do this: Try setting up a timer for five minutes and listing all of the tasks for that day or week. (it is always easier to prioritize when things are written down!)
Next, look at the list, circle the tasks that must be done in the given week and start with those items first. It might be as easy as sending out an email or making a phone call that has been put off.
It’s so easy to get sucked into time-stealing activities or allowing others to dictate time, so prioritization is key.
Focus, focus, focus
To take back your time, try focusing on three decision areas:
- Decisions about what to focus on.
- Decisions about what things mean to you.
- Decisions about what to do to create the desired results.
The brain is really amazing, yet finicky. It limits the amount of information one can hold in at one time, and people often spend more energy than needed when they are not streamlining their thinking. Plus, we live in a world of constant information flow and tons of distractions that can detract people from goals. However, with goals, a plan and a way to check those goals, you are more likely to accomplish what you set out to do. It’s all part of helping you maximize time.
The FOCUS technique is a great way to increase productivity:
- Figure out the task and zoom in. Make sure to be super clear on what it is that should be accomplished in a specific amount of time.
- One thing at a time. Whether it is grading or lesson planning or something else, pick one thing to start with before moving on to the other items on their list.
- Cut out unproductive behavior. It is always important to set aside chunks of time that are not tempted by outside distractions. Just like technology or social media can at times be distracting for students, turn off your own Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or even email to stay on task!
- Uncover a productive plan. The same plan doesn’t work for everyone, so find a plan that is easy and can be executed right away. This might mean setting time aside in school, outside of school or at a coffee shop.
- Start now! It is important to believe you can start accomplishing your goals now, not in the coming days, weeks or months. While it’s super easy to feel overwhelmed or negative, work on combating those feelings so you can be productive right away.
Educators, please remember: You are in control of your time, you are in control of your life and you get to choose how you want to spend that life. Continue to give yourself compassion, and take the time you need to rest and recharge so that you, in turn, are the best educator you can be for your students.
Danielle Sullivan brings 10 years of teaching experience to her role as a national director of content and implementation at Curriculum Associates. She specializes in establishing and strengthening middle-school implementations and offers webinars, presentations and professional development training sessions on educator well-being, personal development, self-care and community building.