I sent out a question a few weeks back on what you guys would like to read more about, and got many questions from people wanting a blog post on HOW to manage doing all the things. By no means have I got this down perfectly, and my schedule may sound pretty crazy to you… but this is what works for me! I am going to share two different schedules I have followed, since my school district just switched to a four day work week, and I know that is not the case for most of my readers.
Before making a schedule, I needed to make a list of my priorities. For me, the answers that emerged were obvious. My first level of priority is taking care of my family. At the moment, I do not have any children, however, I have one amazing and loving husband, plus two puppies. They are always at the heart of everything that I do and I need to be sure to carve out time with them each week. Then, I have my teaching job and my blogging/selling business, which I put on the same level. I also really prioritize working out, and wanted to be sure this was a healthy balance in my schedule.
The first thing and hardest thing that I needed to do when analyzing my schedule, was to make the decision to LEAVE WORK AT WORK. Yes, I said it. I used to be the teacher that thought I was only doing what was best for my students if I was working all the time. Your first few years, it is MUCH harder to accomplish this. However, if you are trying to be a teacher and hold any other kind of job or serious hobby, you need to be able to leave work at work. This includes: planning, grading, responding to emails, doing report cards, making copies, prepping materials, or writing student plans. ALL of these things need to be done AT school DURING your plan time. You might say, “I do not have time for that.” But this is an excuse. You need to be diligent about completing work during the times that are given to you, cut down on the side-talk, and stay focused. I organize this by planning out what I am going to do for each day. On Tuesday, it is planning for the following week. Wednesdays are for copies/material prep, Thursdays are for parent emails/miscellaneous paperwork/long term planning, and Friday is for grading and setting up my room for the following week including anchor charts, targets, and any organizational things that need to be done. One way to help minimize on grading is by having your students self-assess and by conferencing to grade student writing. This has pretty much narrowed down my grading time by about 95%, and puts ownership into your students work. Feedback is immediate and it eliminates the daunting stack of papers you need to grade that slowly pile high on your desk. You can read more about how I manage self-assessing here.
Another important tip that I cannot emphasize enough is to sit down at the beginning of the year and create a backwards plan for your year. Look at your assessments and standards, and map out when you are teaching everything. We do this for every subject and it streamlines our planning process for the rest of the year. Our team uses my Common Core Math Units, which means when we are planning, we all can just plug in “measurement, day one” and know that our targets/evidence/worksheet is all planned for us. We just need to individualize the mini-lesson and are set to go. We use our curriculum for reading, my writing units for writing, and plan social studies by units. This means my planning for a week takes about 10 minutes of plugging in stories/worksheets/lessons. Putting in the hard work at the beginning of the year is SO worth it to make your planning sessions fly by. I also recommend planning a few weeks at a time. Our reading units are each two weeks long, and our math units are between 2-4, so I typically knock out 2-4 weeks at a time. This gives me more time down the road to prep materials and be ready to go. Another way to streamline this if you DO NOT have a plan/curriculum is to keep your plan book year after year so you can plug in things that worked last year or adapt them to work for your students this year. Snag this freebie pictured below to help plan your year here.
Meal prepping has been another lifesaver for me. I make all of our lunches on Sunday night, and plan out our meals for the week so I do not have to go back to the grocery store at any point. This planning and prepping takes about an hour and a half of my Sunday, but saves me SO much time in the long run. If you are looking for any meal prep recipes for a busy teacher, you can check out my meal prep blog post here.
During any down time or travel time, I work on catching up on certain things. For example, it has become a habit for me that any time I am on a plane, I am writing blog posts. When we are in the car, I am adding/editing photos to Instagram and networking on that platform. On my personal commutes, I listen to podcasts or audio-books to stay current. I also use commuting time to catch up with friends and maintain relationships. Then, when I am home, I can focus on being home and being totally present.
One way that I find helpful to keeping my plan time intentional is to keep a running daily/weekly checklist of things that need to be completed. That way, when you go back to your desk during your plan time you can pull it out and start knocking things out. This alleviates distraction and gives you a focus. For me, I have a checklist that is divided into my school and my business and is divided up by day, so I can add to either at any time but know I work on school at school and my business at home.
So what does my schedule look like? Check each one out below.
My Five Day Week Schedule:
Once I decided to do all of my work at work, it freed up time before and after school. Our contract hours previously were 8:15-3:45. Knowing myself, I do NOT like to leave things for myself to do after work. Working out always needs to happen first thing in the morning for me, so this was easy to schedule. I woke up (very early… 4:30) and worked out for 30-45 minutes. I love running, so usually this was a 3-5 mile run. After that, I cleaned up and started working on my business. Luckily for me, this often does aid what I am doing in the classroom. I either blogged, worked on resources, updated resources, or planned out social media. I operate best on a “on Mondays, this needs to be done, on Tuesdays, this needs to be done, etc.”. This doesn’t mean that I am working on blog posts on Mondays, but I know BY Monday, a blog post needs to be posted. A lot of times I batch my work, so I will write 4 blog posts at once, or make 4 freebies at once, but I stagger their release. The reason I do this is for stability for my followers and to hold myself accountable. I used to work on my business from about 5:30-7, then I finished getting ready and headed to work. I usually arrived at work around 7:30/8, and the kids started at 8:30, so I made sure that everything I needed was prepped and laid out for the day. When at work, I focused only on things for my teaching job. I did all clerical work there, responded to emails, planned and copied, so that when I went home, I could focus on my family. I used to get home around 4:00/4:15, and my husband had to work until 5, and often wouldn’t be home until 5:30/5:45 when he went into the office. This gave me another hour/hour and a half of flex time. I used this time to either finish up things I had started in the morning, started a new project, or lots of time I just used this time for myself! After 5:30, I have a hard rule that ALL work is DONE, and this is when I spend time with my family each night. We love cooking and trying new recipes, so this is when we do all of that. I am not a night owl, so I am usually asleep by 9/10.
Four Day Work Week
This year is quite a bit different. We have every Monday off, which gives me an entire day to devote to my business. This also took away a LOT of my planning time at school, so this means I have to be extremely intentional about what I am doing with my time.
This year, I wake up at the same time (4:30) and try to keep my workout about 30 minutes long. I run 3ish miles (give or take) and then I clean up and start working on my business. I only work for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, so I need to be focused and intentional. Then, I head to work. Our contract hours this year are 7:30-4:30. Students come at 7:45 and leave at 3:30. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we have had meetings/team collaboration, so it is important that these times are used efficiently. We use these to plan for the week, write plans for our students, and look at unit plans/assessments. This gives me 50 minutes a day of plan time, which is when I get all of the other instructional work done. Now, I get home at 4:30, which means I do NOT do any work after work, but I am constantly making a running list of things I can work on the following Monday. Once I am home from work, it is all family time.
I reserve the entire weekend for my family. Sometimes, work might trickle in on Sunday night, but I make it a point to NEVER work on any part of Saturdays. This is when we travel, go hiking, go skiing, play board games (we are always looking for new recommendations), watch movies, see friends and do all the things. We do NOT check work email or do any sort of work during these times and we both cherish this time together.
This schedule may be unattainable for others, and is very specific to me and my life. I am by no means saying this is the only way, but I hope you are able to take something from it and apply it to your own life. Let me know if you have any questions!