No matter your teaching situation, one thing is universally true: Teachers do not have enough time to get everything done during the day. How would it feel to totally stop bringing work home from school? Pretty amazing, right? It can be done. In fact, I did it! For the last three years, I completely stopped bringing home lesson plans & papers to grade, with two exceptions: the first 2 weeks of school and bringing home books to read for my novel studies.
Here’s how I stopped bringing work home from school…
Over the past few years, I have committed to maximizing the use of my time so that I feel like I have all the extra time my friends seem to have. Ok, maybe not “extra” time, but I’m hoping I at least have enough time that I can accomplish all I want to and still have time to spend relaxing and with my family at the end of the day.
1. Budget your Time
I’ve learned that the difference is not in how much time we have, but in how we use it. John Maxwell says, “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” The same is true of budgeting your time. If we don’t plan out our time, at the end of the day, we’ll wonder where it all went. Budgeting your time can help both at home and at school.
Try this: on Sunday afternoon, sit down and look at what’s going on for the week. (Don’t wait until right before bed, or you’ll go to bed thinking about your to-do list and your schedule instead of peacefully falling asleep!)
Start filling things in on a weekly calendar. Add all of your must do’s first, like work and appointments. Then, start penciling in everything else: dinners, cleaning up, family time, etc. When you write it all out, you might realize you have more free hours than you realized. It’s all about being conscious of how you spend your time, rather than letting it slip away.
2. When you’re at work, work!
We all know THAT girl. (Some of us ARE that girl!) The one who comes into your room after school or during planning and distracts you from what you wanted to get done. I will readily admit that many days, I am that girl, and I’m the reason neither of us is getting any work done. (I’m sorry!)
Try spending your hours at school truly focused on accomplishing all of the school tasks you can, so that you can leave work at work. Here’s how:
- During planning time, spend the entire time working in your classroom, making copies, etc.
- If you have to, lock your door and turn off the lights. Even if someone knows you’re in there, nothing says “I don’t want to be interrupted right now” like a dark room and a locked door!
- Before and after school, go straight to your room, without making pit-stops to chat with coworkers and friends. If you’re missing those chats with friends, save them for the last 10 minutes of the day, on your way out, after the work is done.
- Be ok with saying “no” to extra commitments beyond the scope of your job. If saying no is hard for you, try this instead: “I can’t say yes right now because…”
You can then add items to your list based on when you will complete them. At the end of each time, either check the item off the list or if you didn’t get to it, move it to a new time slot.
3. Eliminate Distractions
Sometimes bringing work home is inevitable. Tell me if this thought process is familiar:
“I just need to grade a few papers tonight… I’ll sit here on the couch and watch a little TV while I work… Ooh! I love this show… Was that a Facebook notification?… Aww! Look at how cute my son is playing with his new toy… Ugh! I’ve been working for hours, and I haven’t accomplished anything!”
I used to think if I had the TV on, checked my social media occasionally constantly, and had my family nearby, it wouldn’t *feel* as much like work. In truth, though, it just makes the work take longer because I am distracted! Now that I’ve realized how much faster I can get my work done if I just focus, I’m doing things a little differently.
Try to find a quiet place to work that is free from distractions as much as possible. Resist the temptation to turn on the TV, and maybe even consider leaving your phone in a different room. When you focus your energy on the tasks at hand, you’ll get them finished so much faster. Better yet, the time you have left to spend with your family will be quality time, not “distracted mama who is working instead of playing with me” time.
How are you finding more hours in the day? I’d love some more ideas! Share them in the comments below!