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28 Time-Saving Tips for Teachers

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  1. Create a block of time during free periods and other non-teaching time to handle paperwork. Schedule this in your planner and stick to it. Chatting with colleagues is an effective way to let off steam and relax but it is more enjoyable doing so when you’ve first got some paperwork out of the way. Get some books marked first, then chat. Or, if you prefer, mark the books at home – I know which I’d rather do.
  2. Never handle a piece of paper more than once. Avoid putting things that can be dealt with straight away on a ‘to do later’ pile, or worse, somewhere they can easily get lost. If the piece of paper can be dealt with in two minutes or less, deal with it there and then. If not, put it in the relevant folder as described in the De-Clutter Machine which comes as part of Zen Productivity for Teachers.
  3. Spend some time familiarising yourself with some internet lesson plan sites that suit your style and that of your school. There are always times when you get caught short so it helps if you know exactly where to go to find useful ideas and how to navigate the site at short notice.
  4. Have well-labelled files for important documentation and put all loose papers into correct files as soon as you get them. So much time gets wasted looking for ‘lost’ papers. Throw away previous drafts. They serve no purpose. Keep your files and boxes tidy.
  5. Limit the length of letters, recommendations, responses, meeting requests and other correspondence to one page. Extra details can be provided later if requested.
  6. Handle routine requests or tasks immediately if you are able to.
  7. Reduce the number of memos you keep. After all, memos are primarily for short-term information. Record the information you need and bin the memo or create a specific file for old memos.
  8. Deal with paper only once – make a decision, respond on the same sheet if possible or bin immediately.
  9. Avoid school politics and gossip. It wastes valuable planning time and costs friends.
  10. When leaving a conference, workshop or meeting, go through all materials and discard those you know you won’t look at again there and then.
  11. Use class registers effectively. Take a register at the start of the lesson and use this to record the obvious details such as ‘pupils who forgot their book, pupils who didn’t hand in homework’ etc.
  12. Schedule your work-related reading during non-teaching times. Try reading on the bus or train, during free periods, during lunch, or at breakfast instead of reading the paper. We all have handouts, course feedback etc. that we have to wade through and it makes sense to get it done in these slack periods rather than letting it encroach on your private life too much.
  13. When you find items you keep putting off reading, ask “How likely am I to read this and how valuable is this information?” Throw it out if you’re not going to benefit by reading it.
  14. Storage space gets filled up quickly and provides a constant eye catching reminder that you have a lot of paper work. Try reducing or throwing out redundant paper from time to time. A good clear out can do you the world of good.
  15. Create a ‘template’ file for certificates, letters home, reports etc on your PC.
  16. Use your computer effectively. Store as much information on the computer as possible. Papers can easily be misplaced, but letters, lesson plans, teaching units, worksheets, etc., can be pulled up, reviewed, revised and reprinted in a matter of minutes. Be sure to name the files something you recognise instantly, and always keep back-up disks. If possible, find yourself a ‘technician’ too. This might be your own son/daughter or a local student – anyone who can be on hand to help you with technical issues as and when they arise. Dealing with technical issues wastes countless hours for those who aren’t technically minded.
  17. Set up templates for as much of your paperwork as possible.
  18. Do all copying at the start or end of the week. Get it out of the way so that your weekend is free and you don’t have to get stuck in queues next week. Better still, get your Teaching Assistant or even a trustworthy student to do it. Delegating is an important skill and worth perfecting.
  19. Have a nightly ‘stop time’ for any work-related tasks — anything not done by then can wait.
  20. Get to school an hour or more before classes begin – that can be a quiet, productive time to prepare lessons, mark books or catch up on other time-consuming tasks that get put off during the day.
  21. Include valuable relaxation time in your schedule. Making time to relax is more important than your job itself, because if you fall ill due to stress related illness you will not be able to do your job at all.
  22. Clean off your desk before going home each day, leaving only your current Daily To Do List (as explained in Zen Productivity for Teachers) for the next day. As you well know, once the loose bits of paper start to pile up, there’s no stopping them!
  23. Write something on the board for students to answer or complete as they come into the classroom — this will cut down on transition time and get productive time going right away. It also gives you a few minutes at the start of the lesson to gather your thoughts and catch up with any last-minute administration tasks.
  24. Put all your keys, papers and other belongings by the door at the end of your working day – it will help you relax and save time looking for them in the morning.
  25. Cut back heavily on television time. Even just one hour used for productive activities or proper relaxation will pay dividends.
  26. Make a plan for the weekend that doesn’t involve work. Plan to spend more time with your family or with people who make positive contributions to your life. Stop spending time with people who are a drain on your energy or vitality.
  27. Make time for yourself. Set aside time each day to do things that please you and help you recharge. This is so very important and yet almost always overlooked until it’s too late.
  28. Give responsibilities to your students. By delegating some of your menial tasks – collecting form/trip money, taking the register, tidying the room/cupboards, running errands, photocopying, etc. you can free up a tremendous amount of time for yourself. But by far the biggest benefit is that your pupils will love to do this for you. They love responsibility – particularly the more disruptive ones, so give it to them and make your life easier.

Tips like these are all well and good – and hopefully you’ll find one or two of these helpful. However, if time pressure is really getting to you and is something you need to get on top of – for your health if nothing else – you really need a complete system like the one I’ve created specially for busy teachers.

Here it is: Zen Productivity for Teachers

This program will help you put an end to overwhelm and unsustainable work habits. It will help you save and create more of your most precious resource – TIME.

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