I struggle with time management. I always have, it was definitely something I struggled with as a kid. I have developed strategies to help me deal with time management, though I suspect this will always be an uphill battle for me. In fact, sometimes I think I benefit more from the structured schedule of the school day more than the students do!
According to Newton’s first law of motion, an object at rest will remain at rest, unless acted on by some unbalanced force. I struggle with inertia before I even get up in the morning. Because an object at rest… wants to stay in bed. I have learned to give myself lots of time before I actually need to leave for work, because I am a first-class dawdler, no matter how much coffee I pour into my mouth. I especially like to have time to pick out my outfit and play with my hairstyle. I try to curb this by planning both my outfit and hairstyle the night before, but golly if I don’t experiment at least a little bit each morning.
Luckily, once an object is in motion, it tends to stay in motion. Once I actually get in my car, I am ready to go, go, go, and keep going.
However, during actual lessons, I do sometimes have to set timers. I will use my phone or a kitchen timer, depending on what’s going on. I tend to get just as absorbed in what the students are doing as the students are. I have to remind myself to give students time to transition into my room, and out of it. To smooth that as much as possible, I have to keep the necessary materials organized. Headphones are kept in baggies with any login and seating information students may need, labeled by name, so that once those go out, everything they need is within their own reach. The baggies are kept in buckets, organized by homerooms. The buckets are shelved by days of the week — I happened to have five shelves, so it’s Monday through Friday, all the way down. I take them out as needed and try to put them back as soon as a lesson is over.
Routines also help with transition. I have started calling them “algorithms,” or a list of things that need to be done in order to finish a task. For example, when I say, “Time to go!” students know they need to log out of the computer, unplug their headphones, put away their headphones, stand up and push in their chairs, and listen actively for the direction to line up. We spent weeks practicing this routine, and now kids can do it quite quickly. Sometimes it doesn’t matter which tasks they do first (for example, they can unplug and put away headphones before logging out), but sometimes it does (can’t put away headphones if you didn’t unplug them first!).
I struggle more with the beginning transition, when students come into the classroom. When we are working on the approved vendor assessment our district uses for evaluations, it’s smooth as Jiffy — the kids know exactly where to go and what to do to log in, and what to once they’re on. Regular classroom lessons are a bigger struggle, especially when introducing new topics and systems. Is the material best delivered with all kids sitting in front of the projector, watching as I model? Or is it better for them to sit at their seats and follow along as I vocally explain step by step? To be honest, different deliveries work better for different groups, so I frequently deliver the same content one way on Monday and a completely different way on Wednesday. But still, the switch-ups get me.
I am also prone to overestimating or underestimating how much can be done in an amount of time. Sometimes I overestimate the cooperativeness of my lab computers. Sometimes I don’t have an accurate understanding of students’ background knowledge or skills. I don’t do this as often as I did when I first started this position several years ago, because I actually know the students and have rapport and communication with the other teachers. This helps me keep my expectations reasonable. I especially have to be careful about balancing ambition, enthusiasm, and reality – if I want to do something big, and am really excited about it, I need to remind myself that I can’t freeze time like the girl in Out of this World when I need to catch my breath.
Other tools I employ include Google calendar, which helps me keep track of lessons, lesson-planning, and who is using which Chromebook cart when. I also keep a small planner in my purse to help me keep track of personal and professional matters. (I realize I could use my phone, as it is synced to my Google account, but I find that the act of writing something down helps me remember what I wrote.) I also have a calendar hanging in a shared area of my apartment, so my spouse and I can write down shared and separate plans. This helps me manage my time for longer periods – for example, I know I need to accomplish task X by Wednesday, because on Thursday we’re having game night with friends. This also helps when counting down the days to the next holiday break!
I also schedule my downtime in. If I’m frazzled then I am even less able to keep track of time than usual! I guard my eating and sleeping times too — it’s very important to me that I get enough sleep, especially.
So, time management has been a big struggle, though less than it used to be. And I may struggle with it forever, but that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to deal with it. Do you struggle with time management? If so, how do you handle it?