1. Clean out & organize your email.
If you are anything like me, when you left school for the summer, your inbox had about 13000 messages… both read and unread. Maybe a few important ones but most of them – not so much! Take some time before you head back to work to get rid of the unnecessary messages.
Utilize the folder system offered by your email provider. My school uses Gmail, and it is so easy to organize messages using folders and labels. If you find a message you think is important enough to hold onto, create a folder to store it in and toss it in there.
Many email systems also have an archive feature. This is one button I am training myself to use more often, because it really is great. Archive takes your selected messages and hides them away in… an archive, I guess, completely out of sight. They can easily be retrieved if needed, but they are not clogging up your inbox. This is good for those teachers who just CAN’T delete an email.
2. Organize your Drive/Dropbox, etc.
This applies to the files stored locally on your computer as well, but I can’t stress this enough: if you are not using some sort of cloud storage to save and backup your files, you need to start. ASAP!
Just like email services, cloud storage services use folders for organization. My Google Drive for work has folders inside folders inside folders… but I can always find exactly what I’m looking for! Because I’m a little ridiculous, my folders are all color-coded as well. I took the time to reorganize my whole Drive last week and it was so liberating! I felt less overwhelmed as soon as I finished.
Google Drive does not technically have an archive feature, like Gmail does, to hide away all of your ‘old and probably won’t ever need again but better not delete them just in case’ files, but you can create your own work-around by making a folder named Archives. I actually add an x at the beginning of my folder (xArchives) because my Drive is organized alphabetically, and I want that folder at the bottom (since I never open it).
3. Decide on a planning method.
There are so many different options for planners out there – digital, paper, calendar form, list for,, create your own… it’s hard to know where to begin. It tends to be trial-and-error, and I don’t know if I will ever come up with the perfect planning system, but I’m getting there.
Digital Teacher Planbooks
For most of my career I have utilized digital planbooks, and I have watched them evolve into truly amazing tools! Planbook.com has always been my go-to. It allows me to set up new classes, or reuse classes from year to year. I can set up pretty much any kind of schedule I want, including different times, A/B weeks, etc. I have recently discovered the ability to build templates into my plans, so I can quickly fill in objectives, warm-ups, and more. It even lets me integrate all of the state and national standards I need with just a few clicks.
Non-digital Teacher Planbooks
Confession: I have an addiction to notebooks. All school supplies, really, but a pretty notebook or planner can grab my attention so fast and I just have to have it. That being said, I’ve purchased my share of planners, some designed specifically for teachers and some not.
This year I’m super excited to start using my Daily Simplified Planner. A friend at work had one of these and I was drawn to it because it has a separate page for each day. It’s also set up for a school year, so it starts in August and runs through July. It has built-in to do lists and an hour-by-hour schedule for each day… perfect for my quest to be more intentional with my time (see next section!). I don’t think I will use this as my actual planbook, for lessons and stuff, but I will definitely use it as my personal planner.
Emily Ley, the maker of Simplified Planner, also has a Teacher Planner that can be customized!
*NOTE: If you like this Simplified Planner or any of Emily Ley’s products, using this link will give you $10 off your purchase!!
4. Be intentional with your time.
I have spent a good amount of time over the last year and a half trying to find better ways to control my work/life balance. I have read lots of great professional development and self-help books, such as Fewer Things Better: The Courage to Focus on What Matters Most, by Angela Watson, Life Is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance, by Valorie Kondos Field, and Be Excellent on Purpose: Intentional Strategies for Impactful Leadership, by Sanee Bell. In all of these books, the authors have made one thing clear: you need to plan exactly how much time you will devote to each task, block out that time period, and stick with it. By being more intentional with your time, you relieve yourself from the stress of that ‘there’s 15 things on my to-do list and I only have 45 minutes!’ feeling. Chances are, only one or two of those items actually need to be done before the end of those 45 minutes. First thing in the morning, set a plan for which tasks you will accomplish, and when.
I’m also really looking forward to Teach Like You Imagined It: Finding the Right Balance by Kevin Lister.
5. Remember: you have done this before. And survived.
You are a veteran teacher. Whether to you that means you’re in your second year teaching, your 10th year, or your 30th year, you have done this before. You have overcome the back to school stress, or excitement, or anxiety, or whatever it is to you. You have made it through the first day without any major catastrophes or injuries (swollen vocal cords and feet are an occupational hazard and are to be expected). Don’t expect to have it all planned or figured out ahead of time… it’s impossible. Get yourself planned for Day 1, and then take it one day at a time. It will all be fine.