Last year, I started developing some beneficial habits at school and I noticed my to-do list was actually getting done during my classroom prep time. The difference in my productivity was astonishing. I was less stressed and more energized. In turn, I found I’d achieved a significantly higher degree of engagement during instructional time with my students, creating a true win-win-win solution.

 Productivity Boosting Habits for Teachers:


  1. Make a finite to-do list:

Make a list of 3-5 tasks you need to get accomplished during your classroom prep time. Unless they are very short, listing more than 3-5 tasks is unrealistic. (Setting unrealistic goals is discouraging and does not support successful execution.) Making a list beforehand will focus your mind when your precious 50-80 minute prep period arrives, allowing you to hit the ground running, increasing your operational uptime.

I like to make my list on a post-it first thing in the morning before the busy day rushes into my classroom. If there’s a high-priority personal task, such as calling my doctor, I add that task in to be realistic about the amount of time I have — there are too many distractions both during the school day and during class prep time to not plan it out. Meta classroom planning provides significant help with this. If you really want to maximize your time, set a time limit on each task to keep yourself on track with your target goals.

  1. Make your classroom material copies for the week

If you have already gone paperless, congratulations! Most of us still find that at least a few copies are essential each week to keep the classroom running. I find the copy room to be one of the most stressful places on a school campus. There are lines, big unforgiving machines that often jam and when they finally don’t jam, they seem to ignore the buttons you push and follow their own mysterious prompts. Figure out the copies you’ll need, and go in early in the week during a time you know there won’t be a line. You’ll be set up for the next few days with significantly more time and less stress.

  1. Prioritize your teaching responsibilities

With so many tasks that come up during the school day, you need to stay focused on your high-priority tasks when you make your list for your classroom prep. If you treat every task with the same urgency, you’ll find yourself inundated with last minute high-priority tasks that simply can’t be rushed, creating a real pickle of a situation.


Start 2015 with beneficial time management habits in the classroom and you’ll notice a big difference in your energy level, your stress level, and your overall well-being. Being a teacher requires a conscious balance of your time and your responsibilities — you can do it!


Your turn: How effectively did you use your prep periods in 2014? How did this transfer to the amount of time you spent working outside of the classroom?