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Prioritizing your Teacher To Do List

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Aug 15, 2016 3:53:32 PM

We have all been there: swamped by to do lists and feeling like we are simply putting out fires all day instead of proactively getting anything done.  As teachers, we have to balance creating curriculum, grading papers, continuing professional development, communicating with parents, and about a 187 other things that tug at our priorities all day.  Oh yeah, and we can't spend all day checking off our list because we have to actually teach most of the day! So what is a teacher supposed to do? Today we are sharing some to do list best practices that can help us all get more done in the limited time we have:

1. Start everyday with a plan. This seems so obvious, but I have spent many years of my career keeping a running weekly to do list, without focusing each day on a plan.  Since I have switched over to routine planning everyday, I have noticed that I am so much more efficient!
  1. Set a time to plan: If you don't have a routine, chances are you are not going to have time to plan each day. I'm one of those crazy morning people, so I like to sit down with my plan book and a cup of coffee at 5am, while my husband does a similar process each night before he goes to bed. It only takes us about 15 minutes to make the plan.
  2. First: prioritize: Ask yourself: what are the things I *must* get done today? Then ask: what else should I get done?  Try to limit your must do list to a realistic amount if possible (for me it is usually an absolute maximum of 4 must do items.  List your top priorities separately from your other tasks.  As you reprioritize each day, some of last week's extra list will become this week's must do list.
  3. Then, schedule: For each item on your must do list, you have to schedule a realistic time to complete the task during your day. If you do not plan when something will happen, it most likely will not happen.  I try very hard to balance home and school life, so I sometimes schedule myself right through passing periods, or lunch.  When things really get hairy during the school year, I have been known to schedule something for after my kids go to bed, but for me that is an absolute last resort. The hardest thing for me is underestimate how long something will take.  The more I schedule though, the more realistic I have become.
  4. Hold yourself accountable: If you are like most teachers, myself included, things will come up and you will not always complete your priorities, but revisiting your plan everyday will help you get a good grasp on your priorities as a teacher and also figure out where all your time is going.
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2. Learn to delegate.  I know that it is so hard to let go control in our classrooms, but smart delegation is one key to productivity.  Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Take advantage of awesome resources from Simply Novel so that you can focus more on working with students and less on creating curriculum for the books you already use.
  2. Enlist students, spouses, or friends in tasks like cleaning and organizing.  My school has after school detention in individual classrooms, so I assign detention students in my room to disinfect desks and straighten books.  My husband is also no stranger to alphabetizing my papers, hole punching my packets, and assembling binders.
3. Use the tools that work for you.  Here are a few tools I recommend:
  1. Bullet journal: I wrote a blog post recently about how I love bullet journaling, which you can check out here.
  2. Nozbe: Nozbe is a very powerful task management tool that is available for PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, web browsers, and the Apple Watch. It syncs with google calendar, dropbox, and evernote. It isn't free, but you definitely get what you pay for here.
  3. Erin Condren, Passion Planner, or whatever is already working for you: If you already have a planning system that you love, small daily tweaks with your established system can give you the edge you need to finally get ahead of that to do list!

What strategies do you use to stay on top of your teacher to do list?  We would love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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As an innovative leader in the field of educational publishing and media, Simply Novel is committed to providing practical ideas, relevant content, and quality resources to support and connect teachers and to inspire better teaching. Simply Novel provides effective and innovative training, coaching, and resources to help teachers feel inspired and connected to each other and their students in order to generate, support, and retain high-quality teachers in the classroom.

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