Lack of time is a huge problem for teachers everywhere. There’s just never enough time for teachers to do their work well AND have a healthy, balanced life outside the classroom. For as long as I have been working to serve teachers and help you do your work better, time was always the one problem I couldn’t solve. I could share powerful teaching strategies, classroom management tips, game-changing tech tools, but when it came to really nailing the time shortage, I came up empty-handed.
Now there is something that I truly believe is going to change teachers’ lives and give you back the time you so sorely need. It’s called the 40-Hour Teacher Workweek Club, developed by my friend, Angela Watson, an outstanding education blogger and consultant who can be found at The Cornerstone for Teachers. She has created a systematic approach to help teachers shave hours off of their work week and get a whole lot more balance in their lives.
The program, a year-long membership that delivers weekly e-mail tips and downloadable resources, aims to help teachers get a clearer sense of how many hours they are actually devoting to school-related tasks, then target a smaller, more reasonable number to shoot for. For some, this may actually be 40 hours, but for many others, it will simply be something significantly lower than what you’re already spending on school. Once this target number is set, club members apply new strategies each week to get them closer to their target, supporting each other through a private Facebook group.
I’m so excited about the program and how well it’s working for teachers that I invited Angela to come onto the podcast and share some of the best tips she shares with club members, five really powerful ways you can save time as a teacher.
A Sneak Peek: 5 Time-Savers for Teachers
These tips are Angela Watson’s “Big Five,” the principles for teacher productivity that form club members’ foundation for the rest of the year.
1) Eliminate unintentional breaks.
So often when we think we are working, we are actually off-task: checking social media, letting our attention drift to a T.V., visiting with a co-worker who just stopped by for a minute. If we can become aware of these unintentional breaks and cut way back on them—focusing on working when we are working—we will find ourselves with a lot more actual free time.
2) Figure out The Main Thing and do it first.
It’s easy to cross the little things off our to-do lists: grade a class set of quizzes, reply to a parent e-mail about an assignment, update the class newsletter. But most people have that one task that hangs over them—it may be something difficult, time-consuming, boring, or so important we just want to avoid it. Angela advises teachers to decide every day what this task is, to think of it as the Main Thing—your biggest priority for the day, the thing you have been putting off—and get it done first, before ticking off all those smaller, easier tasks. By doing this, you give yourself a sense of satisfaction that can’t be gained from accomplishing the easy stuff.
3) Work ahead by batching and avoid multi-tasking unless the work is mindless.
Many items on our to-do lists happen in fits and starts throughout the day and the week, mixed in with other obligations in these inefficient lumps of “multi-tasking.” Instead of completing tasks one by one—like going to the photocopier every day on an as-needed basis or checking e-mails eight to ten times a day—start doing tasks in larger, less-frequent batches. Get all your photocopying for the week done in one trip. Only check and respond to emails twice a day—but respond to ALL of them in that time. By doing more of the same thing all at once, we actually free up more time for ourselves later.
4) Look for innovative ways to relax any standards that create unnecessary work.
Perfectionism seems to be a common trait for many teachers, and it is the thing that keeps us working hours longer than we need to, looking for that perfect resource, adjusting a document until it’s just right, and doing tasks our students could do almost as well…but not quite. To start shaving time off your work week, take a good hard look for places where you can relax your standards, shoot for “good enough,” and finish those tasks more quickly. Save that time for the tasks that truly deserve extra attention.
5) Use scheduling to create boundaries around your time.
Teaching really can expand to fill up as much time as you let it. So schedule blocks of work right into your calendar the same way you’d schedule appointments. Then, as best as you can, stick to that schedule. If you’ve decided to set aside two hours to plan lessons for the upcoming week, work for two hours, then stop. Just knowing you have only blocked off a set period of time can help you work more quickly and efficiently, and it can help raise your awareness of exactly how long each task takes. If you find that tasks regularly take longer than the allotted time, you may need to adjust your schedule…or go back to item #4…or item #1.
Interview with Angela Watson
In this podcast episode, Angela and I talk in more detail about each of these five strategies. Listen now:
Learn More about the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club
I have seen the resources in this club and read the testimonies from the first wave of club members, and the results are impressive. Teachers are saying they no longer take work home on the weekends, that they leave school at a reasonable hour, and that they are—for the first time in their teaching careers—finding time to give attention to their families, their health, their sleep, their friendships.
On top of that, they are actually enjoying teaching more.
Currently, the club not accepting new members. It will be open for enrollment again in late December. To be notified when you can join, please provide your email address below and I’ll send you an email as soon as the club opens!