Do you have work and life balance? Do you know what the secret to it is? I don’t know all the answers, but I can tell you that everyone struggles with this and perhaps there really isn’t such a thing as work/life balance anyway. Furthermore – maybe we should stop striving for something that actually might make us LESS effective.
Hmmmmmmm you say?
If you think about work/life balance as something that you are trying to multitask, it suddenly makes sense that by trying to do EVERYTHING at once (work, maintain a household, run our kids everywhere, have hobbies, stay connected to friends and family members, and on and on), you are actually less effective at each of those things, just like you would be if you were trying to read a book, watch TV, surf work ideas on Pinterest, and cook dinner at the same time.
I am not sure any of those items would be done well – and probably result in the smoke alarm going off at some point too.
So what is the solution?
I believe doing more of less.
Not only will this save your sanity, but it will result in you getting far more focused time on the activity you are currently paying attention to and allow for above average results. Effectiveness at its finest.
So, what are some tools that can help you to do more of less?
Here are 5 time-saving tips:
1. Fridge Board
Make a weekly fridge board. Have 2 lists that anyone in the family can add to and cross off as items are completed: Need to Do and Want to Do. Need to dos are obvious. Cleaning out a room that hasn’t been organized and is long overdue. Changing a light bulb. Washing the dog. Things that aren’t part of your normal weekly routine.
Want to dos are a list of items that the family wants to do or experience. This might include a cake tasting night at home. Family game night. A date night for you and your significant other.
For every 3 items on the Need list that get marked off, the family gets to vote on a Want to item (or take turns picking it). This really helps to get everyone in the family involved so you don’t feel like you have to do it all.
How can you adapt this for your classroom? Exactly the same way. Need to get the classroom library organized or pass out last week’s homework? Students will help in order to secure a popcorn snack silent reading block as a reward.
2. Set work hours
Most likely you have heard of Parkinson’s Law that essentially means if you have 5 things or 3 things to do in the next 8 hours or you will be fired, you would spend the entire 8 hours to complete the list, no matter whether you had 3 or 5 items to complete. We fill up the time allotment regardless.
If you know you have to complete extra grading or lesson planning at home, set a timer for 45 minutes. Whatever you get done is what gets done in that 45 minutes. If you don’t get it finished, you don’t continue to work.
Having a set time to start and finish helps procrastination and dawdling (I know you are surfing Facebook while “reading those essays”).
3. Using a crockpot or instapot
Whenever you can do something simultaneously – and not jeopardize your effectiveness at all, jump on that idea fast! A great example is using a crockpot to cook dinner while you are at work – or working outside in the yard. It does the heavy lifting while you can pull your focused attention elsewhere.
There are millions of crockpot recipes out there – Pinterest will show you the way. 🙂
4. Batch your work
Don’t you hate it when you lose time during trnasitions at school? It always drives me bonkers if you are switching with another classroom and you have to pack everything up, get in line, get quieted down, walk to the next room, wait quietly again until that teacher is ready, switch groups, get the next group back to your room, get settled in seats with supplies ready, and only then are you able to start focusing on work. It really makes me crazy to lose all that amazing instructional time.
Believe it not, there are many, many things you can save transition time on at home and at school too. When you are grading or doing the laundry – make sure you do it all at once. Otherwise, each time you start and stop you have to remember where you left off, make sure you have collected all the relevant supplies again, and get your mind back in the game. Even if we are talking about minutes or seconds – those time fragments can add up very quickly.
Batch your tasks so you are getting larger chunks of those actvities done at the same time.
5. Your to-do list should only contain 3-5 items daily
How do you pick what items MUST go on your list? Pick items that get you closer to a current goal first.
Good example: I want to get my classroom (or home) organized so my 3 activities are emptying out the 3 drawers near the sink and repacking them into organized groups, make a list of the read alouds you keep in your secret teacher spot that students don’t have access to, and purging any old papers from your desk.
Bad example: I want to get my classroom (or home) organized so my 3 activities are grading, lesson planning, and reorganizing the entire supply cabinet by pulling everything out and completely obliterating the currently picked up classroom.
Start with 3 items and if you are finding that you are able to get those 3 completed with a reasonable amount of time left over, then up the list to 4, but never go over 5. You want to feel challenged, but still accomplished at the end of the day knowing that your efforts were helping you to get to an endpoint of some sort.
Work/Life Balance is not impossible if you start looking at it a different way. Instead of trying to spin many plates in the air at one time, start thinking about spinning just one plate in the air, and then switching it up when the time for the next focus is upon you.
Do more of less.
What are some of your best time-saving tips for teachers? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below too!