Putting in Pockets of Time by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D.
Teaching can be a 24/7/365 career–and in many ways, great teachers don’t consider it an 8 – 5 “job,” which is part of why they chose it. However, if every moment of every waking hour (and most of your sleeping hours, too) are jammed full (and I mean JAMMED), then you don’t have any time “pockets.” Time pockets are daily, hourly, monthly, and yearly reserves of time that you can build in. Tips to create those reserves include:
- Get a planner–and use its calendar. On the calendar page, when you agree to a commitment of any type, add time before and after that commitment. It might be 10 minutes–or an hour–on either side, depending on the type of commitment.
- Get a planner–and use its to-do list feature. When you’re in a meeting or you think of tasks you want to accomplish, write them in your planner. Don’t just try to “remember” them.
- Get a planner and use it as your “information central.” Coordinate all of your tasks, responsibilities, and commitments in one planner. You don’t want to find yourself at an IEP meeting while your son waits for you to pick him up from his piano lesson (which was scheduled on the home calendar, but not in your planner).
- Clarify how many evening and weekend commitments are sensible for you. As a teacher, you have an enormous number of possibilities for how and where to devote your time. Determine what your number is…and then stick to it. Use your planner to stay clear on what your commitments are.
- Double the time you estimate it will take you to grade. When you are thinking about how long it will take you to get your grading done, double that time and then plan for that. It may not take you twice as long as you thought, but it will definitely take you longer than your original estimate. If there is extra time, it’s your “pocket.”
- Double the time you estimate it will take you to enter your grades in the computer. As with all technology, there are the upsides and the downsides. If you are trying to enter your grades at the last minute, then you might triple the time you estimate it will take you, since Murphy’s Law may come into play.
- Double the time you estimate it will take you to plan your lessons. Block in the time on your planner so that you have adequate time to think and plan. Once you get in the planning “zone,” you want to stay there.
- Double the time you estimate it will take you to be in charge of a sport, club, or other school-related activity. When you are asked to be a chairperson, faculty sponsor, coach, or the like…the person asking you might say, “This will only take ___ hours/week.” Whatever number you’re given, double that and then you’ll have some “pockets.”
- Prepare stickers or labels to put on your calendar that designate “grading” or “prep” time. Once the sticker is on that spot, consider it an appointment and don’t schedule on top of that time. You have made an appointment to get your work done.
- Arrive at school with adequate time to get yourself “settled” for the day. If you are arriving at the last possible minute, then you already feel rushed and out of control and the school day has barely begun. Get there with time to spare. It affects everything the rest of the day.
As an educator, you need to maintain your energy so that you can serve the students who have been entrusted to you. I encourage you to access the tips booklet: Put Time & Energy Pockets* into Your Life: 52 Tips for Teachers. Pockets can mean the difference between calm and crazed.