How do you do it all?
I get asked this question so often, particularly in the last few weeks, so I thought I would do a blog post about it!
Here are the answers.
1. I stare at it right in the face. I don't hide from it. My day.
I do not have any help. I do not hire assistants. For anything.
The above Day Planner (download by clicking on the image) is not something I use each day. I use it when I feel myself unravelling. I did use it every day when I was a full time classroom teacher.
For the first few years, I used a template given to me by a supervisor, with 3 blank spaces - 'morning', 'middle' and 'end' session.
Like every teacher, I soon began to tear my hair out and wonder how on earth anyone was supposed to get the curriculum taught at all. I felt exasperated. I probably cried. Chewed a few pencils. Waved my hands around in the air a bit. Whinged to people that would listen. And then, true to form, I told myself to get over it and looked at the facts.
I stared at my day plan. I suddenly realised that the three 'boxes' that I planned my day in, were not reflective of the true time allocation. In reality, my morning was twice as long as my afternoon, but I had hastily wrote a ton of things in the boxes every day, because there was room on the paper for them.
That is when I decided to face the truth. I planned in '15 minute' intervals. The paper had to match the clock.
I wanted to see exactly what I had to work with. I wanted the reality in front of me.
Start by highlighting out the sections of your day that are tied up. The things you cannot change, no matter what - the times you are in the car, the mandatory obligations.
Then, write in all your fixed routines and sessions for the day. For a long time, I wanted to pretend that our school assembly (children lining up in classes when the bell went), didn't exist. I would join in the teacher-chatter about what a waste of time it was, and how it always dragged on too long.
But then one day, I just accepted it, and scheduled it in as an item on my day plan. Most importantly, I was realistic about how much time it was going to take. Should it take 5 minutes? Probably! Does it ever? No. So, I faced reality and wrote it in. I accepted its place in my day, it forced me to be realistic with the things around it.
Similarly with having a nice settled morning chat with my students and making them feel relaxed and valued. It is very important. I wrote that in, and gave it appropriate time.
Once you start doing this, you can see what time you have left. For you, for your students, for your family.
Now, I am not advocating that you have to spend the rest of your life doing this, filling out boxes and scheduling your plans.
I can say with certainty though, that if you do it for a few weeks, you will become much better at managing your time. You begin to appreciate how much time you have and how long things take. You will begin to naturally start to schedule and organise things in a more considered way.
Using this in the classroom made me a much better teacher. At first I was shocked and a little panicked at the reality - "I only have THAT amount to time to get ALL this done!!!"
But I found that I was much better at valuing each and every 15 minute 'section' of my day. I learnt that you can teach a WHOLE lot in 15 minutes. I learnt that children can achieve a LOT in 15 minutes.
The biggest lesson was learning to value each 15 minutes session of the day, and not waste it, thinking that nothing could be achieved cause it was 'just 15 minutes'
In the end, I was much calmer, and my students were too. Although it looks hyper-organised and stressful, it creates calm, purpose and valuable learning times for your students.
Now that I am part time teaching and working on my online ventures, I use a very similar process. Consider using this sort of approach to your online activities. A great place to start, is to not schedule out what you WANT to do, but to write out what you actually DO. Then look back and reflect on it - what it chewing up your 15 minute sections?
2. How do you spend your time? And carrots.
I also consider the things I don't do as adding value and time to my day. I am quite a simple person and over time have realised that it has contributed to me having more time to devote to things like my TpT store and blog. They have not been conscious decisions, it is just who I am.
I have never had a manicure or massage for example. I don't spend hours at the shop looking for more 'stuff' to buy. I am not a hermit either, I like to get out and about, visit people and share happy times with my children. But I do look at things more purposefully now - is it the best way to spend my time? And yes, sometimes being a big lazy sloth on the sofa watching a movie is what you might need - but being more conscious of your decisions will contribute.
Being a kindergarten teacher for so many years also helped me develop some clever thinking and practise about time. As you can see from the planner above, when you day starts to fill up, you naturally start to value your minutes more. I started to think about actions that I was repeating over and over - and considered the time it used up.
For example, this is a very small example, but you will see how the lesson can be applied to your day, and you will gain extra time. My daughter takes carrot sticks to school for recess. I go to the fridge, get the carrots out, find the peeler, peel, wash, chop, pack, clean up the mess.
Then often, she will ask for carrots of afternoon tea. And then I cook them to go with our dinner a few hours later.
Three times I am looking for that peeler. Three times I am walking to the bin to put the scraps in the bin. Three times I am cleaning up.
So I started doing it once. I got three carrots out in the mooring, and did all of them at once to last the whole day. All prepared, ready for the entire day.
When you are in the classroom, and doing something, ask yourself, 'while I am here, can I get this prepared for tomorrow too?'
When you are making your teaching resources, ask yourself 'can I save another version of that file now, while I am sitting here, and come back and edit it later'.
Are there things that you are repeating over and over again, that you can do in bulk and give yourself some time back?
3. Clutter and Stuff
It does not sound like much, but I am not into clutter. I am naturally wired to be a hoarder and to be kind-of-messy, so it's something that I have to continually work at.
I have found that the less 'stuff' I have in my life, the more focused and productive I am. When I go to buy something, I truly consider how its going to impact my life and if I really need it. It sounds weird, but with every purchase or item I bring into my life, I get weighed down a little more. It's a mother thing I guess. It is another thing to look after, another thing to find space for, another item to value and take care of. I try to be as minimal as possible. I have 4 towels for my bathroom for example. When 2 are being used, the other 2 are washed and going in the cupboard. I get 2 new ones every Christmas, and the old ones get moved on. Strange example, but again, when you apply the principle to other aspects of your life, you will find that you are making room for the things that you want to be a priority.
Invest in things to make your work easier. I recently upgraded to Mac - I can work SO much faster now! And easier. It is just all round, the best decision I have made in relation to my digital work. It is also the biggest contributor to me getting so much done. I can't believe I ever worked on a teeny tiny laptop.
I paid extra for a big screen, additional memory and power in my computer. Buy the best quality software you can. Spend time making sure all your updates get done. Time spent sitting around waiting for the computer is wasted. It took me ten years to save enough money to do so, but I wish I had found a way earlier.
I have a little collection of things I can do, if I AM waiting for the computer, which is very rare now. To be efficient, you need the best possible support you can afford.
I hope that helps and answers some of your questions, I am not perfect at all, and struggle on a daily basis too. It is not easy, and there is no special magic to make things happen. You need to create time and space to get things done. Then, be decisive and just do them!
Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!