Time Management Tips For Busy Teachers


Are You Always Chasing Time?

With each passing year, I promise to be more organized and change my “I don’t have time” mantra. Do you feel like you’re always chasing time and can never catch up with all the work you have to do?

We all experience and perceive time differently depending on how we spend it. It’s no secret that time flies when we do what we enjoy, whereas time seems to be against us when we struggle to get through our to-do lists and never finish tasks. Time often feels elusive, whether it’s a never-ending staff meeting, a seemingly unending pile of essays to grade, or a class that ends before you can wrap things up. It needs to be clarified.

To start this year off on the right foot, I scoured the internet for the best time-management strategies and picked the brains of my fellow teachers for their top tips to make our lives easier. Let’s make a New Year’s resolution together and break the cycle that keeps us trapped in never-ending to-do lists.

If you’ve ever felt swamped by your workload as a teacher, you’re not alone. The challenges you face in tackling your to-do list are inherent to the job.

Regardless of grade level, most of a teacher’s day is filled with managed time—hours dictated by teaching classes or attending meetings. Even secondary teachers usually have just an hour and a half of unmanaged time throughout the school day to complete all their non-teaching tasks: grading, lesson planning, making copies, calling parents, and more.

Additionally, this unmanaged time could be more conducive to the creative or analytical work teachers need to do, such as lesson planning and analyzing student data. However, most teachers’ planning time is broken into 10– to 45-minute segments, making it challenging to reach this state.

Moreover, teachers juggle various tasks: creative ones like lesson planning, logistical ones like making copies or sorting student work, and analytical ones like grading. This variety forces teachers to switch tasks frequently, which reduces productivity.

The good news is that there are strategies to enhance efficiency and productivity in teachers’ daily work planning and execution. By hacking your schedule to work for you, you can achieve more in less time without compromising effectiveness.

Time Management Tips For Busy Teachers

Plan Your Tasks

Plan to work efficiently with the unmanaged work time you have identified by incorporating your tasks into your schedule.

Create a Task List

List all regular tasks, such as lesson planning, grading, making copies, calling parents, and creating assessments.

Estimate Time for Each Task

Break down larger tasks if needed, such as grading by class period or subject.

Batch Your Work

Group similar tasks together to reduce task switching, which improves productivity. For example:

  • Creative tasks: Lesson planning and writing parent emails.
  • Analytical tasks: Analyzing student data.
  • Logistical tasks: Making copies and completing paperwork.
  • 15-minute-or-less tasks: Quick tasks that fit into short time slots.

Assign Tasks To Your Schedule

Use your time estimates to assign tasks to available time slots. To maximize short periods of free time, include a list of 15-minute or fewer tasks.

Take Time To Make Time

  • Habit Formation: Developing good time management habits takes practice. Continuously evaluate and adjust your strategies to find what works best for you.

  • Regular Reflection: Review regularly to assess whether your current activities align with your goals and priorities.

How Much Time Do You Have?

Taking control of your schedule starts with understanding how much time you have and how it’s structured. Begin with a time audit involving two steps: observation and analysis.

#Tip 1

Conducting A Time Audit

Observation (3-5 Days)

  • Record the time spent on different activities throughout your day. Keep it simple—jot down quick notes in your planner or on sticky notes.
  • Do this in real time. For example, note that you spent 20 minutes before students arrived making copies, grabbing a coffee, and loading slides.


  • Where is your time going? Identify what consumes the most time.
  • Are these activities how you want to spend your time? Reflect on whether these tasks align with your priorities.
  • How much unmanaged time do you have? Calculate the total unmanaged time and consider whether the amount surprises you.

Analyze, Analyze, Analyze!

  • Identify time blocks: Note the duration of each.

  • Energy levels: Determine when you have high or low energy.
  • Best times for creative work: Decide when you are most productive for tasks requiring creativity or deep thought.

#Tip 2

Map Out Your Schedule

Using Google Calendar or a paper planner, lay out your schedule for the upcoming week. Include teaching times, meetings, and duties. Even if some commitments vary weekly, do your best to account for them.

What To Do If You Have Too Much Work And Too Little Time

Accept Your To-Do List Will Never Be Fully Done

  • Focus on identifying and completing the most important tasks first.

Set Work Boundaries

  • Decide how much you want to work outside of contract hours and stick to it. Schedule specific times to stop working each day or limit work to one weekend day.

Involve Your Administrator

  • Discuss your workload with your principal or department chair. Share your list of tasks and time estimates, and seek their help prioritizing tasks or offloading some responsibilities.

#Tip 3

Use the Percentage Rule

When scheduling your week, consider the percentage rule. For instance, if teaching occupies 40% of your day, allocate a similar percentage of time for related tasks. Apply this rule to all your activities to maintain balance. According to Parkinson’s law, tasks expand to fill the time available for completion. Setting clear boundaries helps you focus on essential tasks, preventing your time from being consumed by less important ones.

Prioritize Around Your Peak Productivity Hours

Identify your peak productivity hours when you can concentrate and work efficiently. Schedule your most demanding tasks during these periods to maximize efficiency and creativity. Reserve shorter, less challenging tasks for times outside your peak productivity hours.

#Tip 4

Take Advantage Of Tech Tools

  • Learn the Tools: Familiarize yourself with technology early in the year. Bookmark resources, save passwords and set up email lists.
  • Digital Curriculum and Tools: Use digital tools like online gradebooks and Google Forms to streamline your work.
  • Classroom Technology: Ensure students bookmark and organize online resources for quick access.

Learn To Say No

Taking on more than you can handle prevents you from completing tasks and owning your schedule. Determine the essential functions and learn to say “no” to unnecessary commitments. Setting boundaries helps you prioritize your time and prevents others from dictating your schedule.

Protect Your Time: 

Be selective about taking on additional responsibilities beyond your contractual obligations.

Block “Me Time” in Your Schedule

As teachers, it’s easy to let work consume your day, but it’s crucial to prioritize personal time. Schedule “me time” for activities you enjoy and that recharge you. By blocking out time for yourself, you ensure you stick to it, keeping you grounded and energized for your various roles.

#Tip 5

Set Goals And Priorities

To effectively manage your time, it’s essential to set clear goals and priorities both weekly and daily. Here’s a structured approach:

Daily Goals:

  • Create a Short List: Every evening, jot down 3-4 most important tasks for the next day. This is not an exhaustive to-do list, but it should tie into your weekly goals.
  • Morning Kickstart: This practice helps you start your day with a clear focus.

Weekly Goals:

  • Set Realistic Objectives: Define what you need to achieve to consider the week successful. These goals should be achievable and written down for constant reference.
  • Comprehensive To-Do List: Create a detailed to-do list for the week, including small (15-minute) and more significant tasks. This allows you to make productive use of short windows of free time.

Daily Check-Ins:

  • Review and Adjust: Daily, review your goals and activities to stay aligned. Identify and minimize time spent on activities that don’t serve your goals.

Thematic Days

  • Activity-Based Planning: Some teachers find it helpful to dedicate specific days to certain activities, like lesson planning on Mondays and filing on Thursdays.

Weekly Planner:

Consolidate Your Plans: A weekly teacher planner can help keep all important documents together, making you better prepared and easing the handover to a substitute if needed.

Look Ahead: Use a monthly planner to prepare for events like parent-teacher conferences, spreading out the workload over several weeks.

#Tip 6

Plan Homework Assignments 

Class vs. Home Tasks: Identify which activities are best for class time and which are suited for homework. Repetitive practice often works well as homework.

Grading Implications: Space out writing assignments to avoid overwhelming yourself with grading.

#Tip 7

Apply Classic Time Management Techniques To Teaching

David Allen’s Two-Minute Rule:

  • Quick Tasks: If a task takes less than two minutes, do it immediately to prevent a backlog.

Single-Touch Principle:

  • Organize Documents: To keep your workspace organized, handle each document only once by filing it or dealing with it immediately.

Break Big Jobs into Smaller Pieces:

Manageable Tasks: Tackle large projects bit by bit to make them more manageable.

Just Start!

Overcoming Procrastination: Commit to working on a daunting task for a short, set time to get started.

Do the Hard Thing First:

Prioritize Challenges: Tackle the most challenging task to alleviate mental stress and make other tasks seem more manageable.

Pre-Load Projects:

Organize in Advance: Prepare your workspace and materials the day before to hit the ground running.

Organize Your Lessons and Materials

  • Create a System: Set up binders, file folders, or digital folders to organize lesson plans, handouts, and materials.
  • Save Time: The initial organization will save time throughout the school year.

Establish Procedures And Routines

  • Clear Communication: Set and communicate classroom procedures and routines early to create an orderly environment.
  • Weekly Routine: Establish a routine for yourself, such as specific days for planning or grading.
  • Student Time Management: Help students manage their time with clear instructions and signals for transitions.

#Tip 8

Manage Your Time Smartly!

Professional and Personal Time: Set aside weekly time for lesson planning and personal relaxation.

Delegate Grading:Share the grading workload with students, parent volunteers, or technology. Break grading into smaller, manageable tasks.

Delegate Classroom Tasks

Student Jobs: Assign classroom tasks to students to foster responsibility and free up your time.

Parent Volunteers: Use parent help for tasks like making copies, grading, and preparing materials.

Aiming to work even a few hours less each week can significantly improve your overall well-being. By implementing these strategies, you can effectively manage your time, reduce stress, and focus on what you love—teaching—while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Time Management Tips For Busy Teachers


Understanding that self-care is essential to your effectiveness as a teacher is crucial. By planning your week, applying the percentage rule, prioritizing tasks during peak productivity hours, learning to say no, and blocking out personal time, you can break the cycle of endless to-do lists and create a more balanced, productive life. Let’s commit ourselves this year to managing our time better and improving our well-being.

Educators are often overwhelmed with advice, but some insights—especially those received early in their careers—can shape their practice for years. What’s one piece of advice that stuck with you and made a lasting impact? 

Your contributions can be invaluable to the new teachers in our community! Share your experiences and help shape the next generation of educators.