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Becoming a Master of the Clock: Time Management Tools Every Teacher Needs

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July 09, 2024


In the words of Theophrastus, “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” And women, too, of course!

As teachers, we know that our work is so much more than a job – it’s more like juggling flaming swords while riding a unicycle on a tightrope. You manage lesson plans, grade papers, handle parent meetings, and still need to maintain some semblance of a personal life. 

According to a 2012 report from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, teachers work an average of 53 hours a week. If that’s you, we’ve got some tips and tools that you can take advantage of to help you reclaim your time – once and for all. 

The Best Time Management Tools for Teachers

man checking his watch while working

With the right tools, you can streamline tasks and find those extra minutes (or even hours) you desperately need. Below are some game-changers:

1. Toggl 

Toggl is like having a personal assistant without the cost. It lets you log the hours you dedicate to projects and classify projects by type. Whether you’re working on lesson plans or grading papers, Toggle keeps track, so you know exactly where your time is going.

At the end of the week, you can review your Toggl reports to identify time-consuming tasks that might need a different approach.

2. Asana

Asana is a fantastic project management tool. You can create to-do lists, set deadlines, and even assign tasks to colleagues if you work in a team setting. It’s perfect for collaborative projects or just keeping your own tasks organized.

You can use Asana to create a project for each class you teach, and break down tasks like lesson planning, grading, and administrative duties.

3. Todoist

Todoist is a simple yet powerful tool for managing your to-do lists. It’s user-friendly and allows you to set priorities, due dates, and even recurring tasks.

Todoist can help you remember even simple tasks, like updating bulletin boards and submitting weekly attendance without fail.

4. Pomodoro App 

Studies show that working in short bursts can improve focus and productivity. Who knew taking breaks could actually make you more efficient?

One way to leverage the power of breaks is to use a Pomodoro app. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that encourages working in focused intervals (usually 25 minutes), followed by short breaks. 

Apps like Be Focused or Pomodone can help you stick to this technique.

5. Doodle

Scheduling meetings and coordinating with multiple people can be a headache. That’s where Doodle comes in.

This app allows you to easily create polls for potential meeting times, eliminating the back-and-forth emails or texts. You can also set preferences, such as availability and time zones, to make scheduling even smoother.

And if you’re on-the-go, Doodle offers a mobile app for convenience. So say goodbye to endless email chains and hello to efficient scheduling with Doodle.

6. Trello

Trello is like having an infinite number of sticky notes that never fall off the wall. It uses boards, lists, and cards to help you organize tasks and projects visually.

You can create a board for each subject or grade level you teach, and use lists to track lesson plans, assignments, and upcoming events.

7. Expensify

Teachers often spend their own money on classroom supplies and activities. Expensify helps you keep track of these expenses, making it easier to get reimbursed or deduct them on your taxes.

One pro tip? Keeping detailed records of your expenses can save you a lot of time and headaches during tax season.

8. ActiveCollab

ActiveCollab offers a blend of project management and time tracking, which is ideal if you’re juggling multiple tasks and projects. 

It also has invoicing features, which can be useful if you do any freelance or consulting work on the side.

9. Evernote

Evernote is your digital notebook for capturing ideas, lesson plans, and anything else you need to remember. You can organize notes into notebooks, tag them for easy searching, and even sync them across devices.

You can use Evernote to keep track of professional development notes or to store interesting articles and resources for future lessons.

10. Google Drive

Google Drive is perfect for storing and sharing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. With its collaborative features, you can work on lesson plans with colleagues in real-time, no matter where they are.

How to Manage Your Time Effectively As a Teacher

watching the clock while working

Even with the best tools, effective time management requires some strategies and habits. Here are some tips to help you manage your time more effectively:

1. Start (and End) Each Day with a Purpose

Begin your day by setting clear goals. At the end of the day, review what you’ve accomplished and plan for the next day.

Write down three main tasks you want to complete each day. This keeps you focused and gives you a sense of accomplishment.

2. Lists, Lists, and More Lists

Lists are a teacher’s best friend. Use them to keep track of tasks, supplies, and even ideas for future lessons.

Keep a “master list” of long-term tasks and break it down into daily and weekly lists.

3. Use a Planner

A planner helps you visualize your week and stay organized. Whether it’s a digital planner or a physical one, find a system that works for you.

4. Protect Your Time

Set aside specific times for planning, grading, and personal activities. Communicate these boundaries clearly to your colleagues and students.

Pro tip? Use the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your phone during planning periods to minimize interruptions.

5. Get Students Involved in Grading

Where appropriate, involve students in self-assessment or peer assessments. This not only saves you time but also helps students take ownership of their learning.

For example, you can use rubrics and have students grade each other’s work during peer review sessions.

6. Eat the Frog

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning,” Mark Twain famously said.

“Eat the frog” means tackling the most challenging task first. Once that’s done, everything else feels easier.

7. Figure Out Where Your Time is Actually Going

Track your time for a week to see where it’s really going. This can help you identify “time robbers” and adjust your schedule accordingly.

8. Batch Your Work

Grouping similar tasks together can save you both time and mental energy. For example, dedicate one block of time to grading and another to lesson planning.

9. Be OK With a Never-Completed To Do List

There will always be more to do, and that’s okay. Focus on what’s important and let go of the rest. Don’t let a never-ending to-do list overwhelm you.

10. Plan for Emergencies 

Unexpected things happen. Set aside time for dealing with emergencies or last-minute changes. 

11. Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from colleagues, administration, or even students. Delegating tasks can free up valuable time.

12. Reward Yourself 

Set small rewards for completing tasks. Whether it’s a coffee break or a short walk, these rewards can keep you motivated.

13. Organize Your Personal Life, Too

A well-organized personal life can make your professional life much smoother. Use the same time management tools for personal tasks and responsibilities.

Make More of Your 24

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Time is a limited resource, but with the right tools and strategies, you can make the most of every hour. Remember, it’s not about working harder, but about working smarter.

Becoming a master of the clock isn’t about squeezing every second out of your day. It’s about making your time work for you. With these tools and tips, you can reduce stress, increase productivity, and even reclaim some of your personal time. After all, a well-rested teacher is a more effective one.

So, are you ready to take control of your time? Start today, and watch how these small changes can lead to big results.

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