Thursday, October 29, 2015

Productive Planning Time!

Balancing school and home life can be TOUGH! Our To-Do list can seem never ending and sometimes staying at school until midnight seems like the only way we could ever get it all done. For my own mental sanity I cannot stay in the school building from 8AM-8PM so I have a few tips that I have learned along the way to help me get out of the building at a reasonable time. 

1. Prioritize your "To-Do" list!

When preparing your To-Do list put everything that MUST be done for tomorrows lessons plans first! If interims are due by the end of the week and you know you need to do them at some point during the week, still put it on your list. But know not everything on your list will get done in one day. I always put my tasks that need to be done for the next days plans first so that I am prepared when I come in the next morning. Always accomplish what needs to be done for your kids and your lessons before tackling those other little teacher tasks because at the end of the's all about the kids! They need to have engaging lessons and activities ready to go! 

I love a good list because there is nothing like the satisfaction of checking stuff off!

2. Learn what's best for you: before or after school?

I quickly learned I was tired, and cranky by the end of the day. So I learned that going to school early was the best time for me to be productive. At the end of the day it is hard for me to concentrate and I need a break, breath of fresh air, and a few minutes to put my feet up. So getting things done in the afternoon just doesn't work for me. I like to get a few small tasks done like setting up our morning meeting message, tidying up around the room, making a few copies and then calling it a day. When I come in the next morning I have my "To-Do" list on my desk and I get right to it. For me, it helps me to be productive because I race the clock to see how many things I can get done before that morning bell rings. I have more energy to tackle my list but I know that mornings might not be the best for everyone. Just figure out when you feel the most productive and tackle that list then. Maybe before or after school isn't when you feel the more energized to get everything done, maybe it is lunch or your planning period. Just find your time and start checking things off that list!

3. Stick to a routine!

Once your find our best time of day to check those tasks off your list, stick to it! If it is morning then make sure you keep that morning alarm set so you are at school early and ready to go. If it is after school then make sure not to schedule a lot after the bell rings. Just like our kids, we need to keep a routine to be productive.

4. Organize!

Don't spend your planning time running back and fourth to the copy machine or running up and down the halls to find your library books and lesson materials! First, get your plans set and straight. Next, make a list of all things you need copied, a list of the books you need to check out, and a list of materials you need to gather. Then get all of those "errands" around the school done at one time.

5.  Know when to socialize and when to get busy.

When you are out on your "errands" around the school, know when it is time to socialize and when it is time to get busy! Yes, a quick conversation with a friend down the hall can be a great stress relief and it is nice to talk to an adult after talking with your students all day. But, don't go into their room, make yourself cozy in their rocking chair, and end up staying for an hour, wondering where the time went. When you are running your errands around the school, be on a mission! Chat it up with your coworkers by the copy machine while you are getting your things done or stop by your teammates room to say hi! Just don't stay forever because they want to get stuff done too!

6. Focus, school time is school time! 

As tempting as it might be do text your family during your time before or after school try to avoid your phone...or Pinterest! I like the think that anything I can do at home like get ideas off Pinterest can be done at home. Calling my Mom to check in on her can be done at wait! Keep your game face on and keep plowing through that to do list! 

7. Know what can get done at home and what has to be done at school.

I know not everyone likes to take home things from school and I get that. However, I like to do some things from the comfort of my couch instead of my guided reading table. Things that can be done while some HGTV or Modern Family is playing in the background help me make it out of the building before dark! I like to bring home grading, lamination cutting, or anything that involves folding/stapling/gluing. Taking some stuff home gives me a break from school while we eat dinner before I go to take care of the few things left of my to-do list. 

8. Be okay with some things not being done, but have plan so they will get done. 

Know that not everything can get done! We only have 24 hours in a day and I personally need sleep so I am not a grump in the morning. It can he hard, but you have to learn to come to terms with the idea that not everything may get done. BUT have a plan to finish it! Tell yourself that you will set aside 20 minutes the next day, night, or weekend to get it done. Even if you break a big task like getting writing interims into 4 days of 20-30 minutes blocks each night. 

9. Kids want to help!

I tried to do it ALL my first year teaching, then I learned my kids loved to help. My kids waiting for the bus to arrive in the afternoon like to help with those little tasks like sharpening pencils, getting our morning meeting area ready, and passing out papers for the next morning. It helps get those routine tasks done while giving them a sense of pride and ownership that they prepare our classroom too. 

10. COLLABORATE and find your teaching soulmate!

Find your teaching soulmate and COLLABORATE with them daily! I know that this won't happen for everyone every year but you will find someone that you enjoy working with. I found my soulmate my second and third year of teaching and it was amazing! We worked together on everything. This split our to-do lists in half because we planned together and prepped the same lessons. It was like we spoke the same language, we had very similar teaching philosophies and we pretty much completed each others thoughts. Collaboration was key when trying to be productive! 

I know that not all of these tips will work for everyone and some of these tricks you might already be using, however, I wanted to share with you things that have helped me along the way. We all work differently but I hope you will be able to take away something from this post to help you be a productive planner! If you have any tips of your own that have helped you be a productive planner, I would like to hear them, so leave a comment below.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Awesome post ! Can't wait to try these tips out :)

  2. Wonderful tips!! I also love lists and checking things off!