Work smarter, not harder. It’s a phrase you’ve probably heard a million times, but I’ve noticed that it’s rarely taken to heart in education. You know that teacher who is at work before everyone else and leaves after everyone else. Maybe this person is you. Is working that long really accomplishing that much more than others who show up at reasonable time and leave at a reasonable time? The honest answer is probably not. Most of us can’t work 10+ hour days every day and not eventually burnout.
Today, I wanted to share 7 of my top tips for working smarter, not harder for teachers. Getting into these habits early in the school year will save you a lot of time and you’ll be more productive daily. Teachers suffer from more stress than most other working professionals, so working smarter is something we could all benefit from!
Work Smarter Tips
- Create a to do list and prioritize. I like to create my to do list before I leave work each day. In the morning I don’t have to think about what I need to accomplish, but I can start on my list right away. I also prioritize the importance and set time limits of how long I will work on a certain task that day. Starring the tasks that you need to accomplish that day, or numbering them in order of importance is a great way to make sure you focus on the right things.
- Take the time to plan you daily, weekly, and monthly responsibilities. I spoke about this in a previous post, but planning and putting responsibilities in your calendar far ahead of time will help you keep things straight. Set due dates for yourself that are a few days before the actual due dates, so you don’t feel rushed at the end.
- Don’t grade everything. This teacher trick takes a lot of teachers a long time to jump on board with, but trust me, it’ll save you so much time. Not every assignment is as necessary to grade. If you want to give students completion points, do that. Otherwise, choose the most important assignments to actually grade and give feedback on.
- Find time to focus on one thing, and one thing only. Multitasking all day will leave you feeling like you accomplished nothing because you probably didn’t finish any one thing. Teachers love to multitask, but it’s not the best for paperwork, lesson planning, or grading. Give your attention to just one thing more often, and you’ll accomplish more in less time.
- Stop reinventing the wheel. I use to be guilty of this. I wanted to make all of my own lessons, but I was overwhelmed and working far too long. When I stopped and started collaborating with other teachers in my school and using good resources online, I regained so much time to do other work. Any lesson idea you have, someone has probably done it before. If you are like me and want to make your own materials, then decide to do it for only once or twice a week instead of every day.
- Take breaks. You need time to not think about work, and you will come back to your work refreshed and more productive. Take 10-15 minutes of your lunch break to have enjoy lunch or start your prep with a walk around your school. Along with these breaks, don’t stay at work all evening or go home and work all evening. You need time away from work for your mental and physical health.
- Say “no” more often. If you are busy, don’t keep taking on more responsibilities that aren’t mandatory. Saying no is okay and the right thing to do when you can’t properly give your attention to what someone else is asking you to do.