When I first started teaching, I had awful time management skills. I wanted to be a great teacher, but I also wanted to form (and maintain) friendships in a new city. I assumed that maintaining a work/life balance meant sacrificing one for the other. I wasn’t willing to do that and exhausted myself by trying to “do it all” without a game plan. I’m very Type B and know how frustrating it is to fail at the same, basic advice given to me over and over again: “Make sure everything has a place! Use a planner! Say ‘no’ to things that aren’t important to you! Meal plan! Become a morning person! Don’t wait til the last minute!”
If this advice doesn’t work for you, chances are you’re a real person. You might have kids, graduate classes, or a second job when you leave school for the day. You don’t have enough time to eat all three meals, let alone meal plan. You need more hours in the day, but can’t cut any out of your busy schedule.
When I was teaching while in grad school full time, I tried every trick in the book to maintain a healthy work/life balance. I learned that you can’t add hours to the day, but you can be intentional about how you spend your time. You don’t need to be a Type A person or plan every single day down to the minute (trust me, I tried). After a lot of trial and error, here’s what worked. Hopefully, this list can save you the time and stress I went through trying to figure it all out.
1. Write your plans in pencil.
I love flair pens and Sharpies as much as the next teacher, but pencils make changing plans a lot less stressful. It also puts you in the mindset that it’s okay to change plans occasionally, we’re all humans that are busy. I spend maybe 15 minutes max planning on Saturdays (see #4 for how I set time limits) in my Passion Planner, which I LOVE. I’m really not a planner person, but this one works because it has everything I need for my personal and work life in one spot. I brainstorm personal and work to-do items for the week in the planner, but always put them on a screen daily to ensure they get done(see #2).
2. Keep your to-do list on a screen, not paper.
My favorite tool for this is a chrome extension called Momentum. I keep a to-do list and a big “to do” for the day on it. Every time I open a web browser, it greets me with a relaxing picture and inspirational quote. It’s a lot easier to keep track of than a paper and pen list that I usually lose or forget about. I’m on my computer more than anywhere, so it’s a great home base for feeling accomplished while working.
For shopping lists, use a phone app. My favorite is Any.do. Forgetting something on a paper list or “list in your head” (guiltyyyyyy) can cause you to lose around an hour from your day, and typically pulls you away from a task you were working hard on!
3. Tackle the chores you hate on Saturday
The Sunday scaries are REAL. Getting everything done on Saturday gives you a stress-free night out (or in) and a full day after to do whatever you want. On weekends when I have Saturday plans, I’ll do everything on Friday night. Since I’m a procrastinator, even writing this tip makes me roll my eyes a little. Here are some reasons for making this a habit:
- Stores are less crowded on Sundays, and practically empty on Friday nights. You’ll save at least 30 minutes from your trip by getting a closer parking spot, accessing items more quickly, and breezing through the lines.
- Guilt-free Saturday nights. Binge watching a Netflix series on Saturday nights isn’t as fun when Sunday of lesson plans, laundry, and cleaning are on your mind. If you’re going out, you can celebrate everything you got done with no fear of a hangover!
- Sunday funday. Adios, Sunday scaries. Go to brunch, drink that bloody mary, shop til you drop, and spend time doing what you wanna do.
- Feeling energized on Mondays. I’m now a Monday person now that I’m not spending my entire Sunday cleaning, cooking, and sometimes planning. It feels like a total “reset” button on the week. You can always finish up small tasks in your place on Sundays if that makes you feel more “ready” for the Monday ahead. Much better than showing up to work exhausted from a long day of chores!
[h1]4. Use alarms, not the clock, for small tasks.
During the school day, I used to get nothing done during my prep because I was constantly staring at the clock to make sure I’d leave on time to get my class from their specials. Now, I set a daily alarm that rings 10 minutes before my prep ends so I can start cleaning up and heading down to get the kids. It helps you focus SO much more. I also do this in the mornings while getting ready because sometimes I lose track of time doing my hair and makeup. Instead of thinking “I need to be ready by 1”, you’ll think more along the lines of “I have 30 minutes to get ready”. Doing this with smaller tasks will ensure you spend less time on them in order to create space and time for bigger projects, self care, or working out.
5. Don’t make social plans more than a week in advance.
Things come up. With the exception of RSVP events, I don’t plan anything more than a week ahead of time. There are less hurt feelings if someone needs to cancel, and spontaneous plans are usually the best kind. It feels less like an appointment when you make social plans on the spot. It’s been really helpful with dating, too, because I used to schedule plans with my girlfriends around a first or second date that was already planned for the week. I used to go shopping for cute date clothes too, which is now nearly impossible when making day-of plans. When you spend less time getting ready for a date, there’s less room for feeling like you wasted your time if it didn’t work out. I usually try to keep either Friday nights or Sundays without any plans at all so spontaneous plans like dates or nights with my girlfriends can pop up.
6. Read this book
As I previously mentioned, I’m really disorganized and Type B. This book was a total gamechanger the year I started my TpT store while in grad school full time and working full time. Even though my things aren’t organized, my mind now is. It literally re-trains your brain in a way that works for you!
Last but not least, here’s a little peek of what I’m doing this upcoming week. Like I mentioned in #5, I like to leave lots of blank space open for the following weekend so plans can organically come up!
What are you up to this weekend? Let me know in the comments section!