How to Optimize Your Time: 3 Time Management Tips for Teachers

How to Optimize Your Time: 3 Time Management Tips for Teachers

By NAfME Member Maria Stefanova-Mar

Article originally published on Music Teaching and Parenting

Teacher time management tips are never out of season! 

Teaching is so difficult! We all feel overwhelmed at one point or another. However when we learn how to be smarter about our prep time, that can make a big difference when things get overwhelming.

time management


After 14 years in the public schools and training young colleagues at the university, and going through many overwhelming periods in my life, here are the three tricks that I have found effective in fighting teacher burnout.

1. Start a Binder for Each Class!

This is huge! It sounds simple but it might change your life for the years to come! Here is what you would do:

  • Simply start a binder for every single class you teach. Especially if you are starting a new class.
  • As you teach each daily lesson, and especially if the lesson is successful, keep all notes and student handouts in the binder. It is important that this is not just a lesson plan book, but all student materials that need to be distributed for that day are also there.
  • Next time, or next school year, you have to teach the same class, your life will be SO EASY!
  • Instead of looking and re-creating the wheel every school year, you simply have the materials ready for you.
  • This opens up so may possibilities for great teaching and avoiding teacher stress at the same time! Here are my experiences with it.
  • Does that mean that you keep things the same and you are not creative and flexible? Of course not!
  • You can add new and exciting things as you go. But the core of the information and student materials is readily available to you. Having all materials at one place actually opens up more time so that you can think about ways to be more creative or how to present the same material in a more interesting way.

This opens up so may possibilities for great teaching and avoiding teacher stress at the same time!

In fact, I just finished a blog post about how I Spend Zero Hours On Back to School Prep. The binder that I have kept saved me from a rocky start!

This year I am teaching a new class. The class requires more theory, more handouts, etc. I have some materials ready to use and others I am creating as I go.

So from day one I have started two binders for the class. Every single lesson plan with the handouts go in the first binder. I do it at the last 2 min of each class as the kids are in their seats waiting for the bell. This way I do it within the class time and I don’t pile work on top of my busy schedule.

I have a lot to talk about with this little trick and I am starting a separate post on it. Stay tuned for it!

time management

But my teaching situation changes every year… You may be working in a more difficult school situation where you are being asked to change the grade level you teach almost every year. Unfortunately there are many teachers who are moved to different teaching assignments last minute.

If this happens to you, know that this blog can be a place of support! Being in the educational system for some time now, I know how difficult it can be! But it also brings us to the next tip!


lesson planning


2. Be Wise About Your Planning Time.

The way you plan for your instruction has everything to do with the ability to avoid teacher stress.

If you are a new teacher you will soon realize that planning wisely is what will help you avoid teacher burnout! It will also keep you in the profession for longer!

Focus on one afternoon when you do most of your planning

Schedule your lesson planning! 

Doing a bit of planning every day for the next day adds to a lot of stress. I am guilty of falling back to it myself and I can always see a difference.

To avoid teacher burnout, it is best to have a scheduled time of the week when you plan for lessons, create handouts and materials, etc. This will open up time for other things and at the end will train you to be more focused.

Think about your students: most likely you have specific assignments that you expect them to do in a certain way. We, as adults, get so busy working with the young mind that sometimes we forget to take care of our own HW load!

Here are some additional articles with tips about smart teacher planning in order to avoid teacher stress


time management

3. Tackle Your Email

This third tip would depend on the time of year you read this post. At the beginning of the school year everything seems in control. Slowly you start getting more emails from different administrators and teachers. Still things are in control. But at a later point of the year, your email box becomes a major source of teacher stress.

By October, there will be days when you open your email and simply do not know where to start from! The demands are so overwhelming that you feel frozen.

And if on top of all that you receive an unpleasant parent email or a phone call…you will experience teacher burnout.

How does teacher burnout happen? Exactly as stated above! For many of us.

So looking into wise ways to tackle teacher emails will help you avoid a lot of teacher stress. Here are some quick tips about handling school emails wisely.

  • Start a different email folder for different things so they are better organized and easily accessible.
  • Think about your day at school. Do you have a habit of checking your emails many times during the day? This is a huge time waster.
  • See if you can schedule a time of day to check your emails.
  • Schedule a day in the week to write and respond to parent emails. For example, to me this is Friday as I have a lighter schedule on that day and I have collected all emails by then.

I am personally not an expert in emails. I try to move in a better direction but I am still working on these things. But I recently read Less Stress for Teachers by Helen Segura. This was a great book that has a whole section on emails. It is VERY helpful and I recommend the book to all teachers just for that one meal section.

Don’t Forget to Check These Related Articles About Fighting Teacher Burnout and Managing Your Time as a Teacher:


Previous articles by Maria Stefanova Mar:


Visit Maria’s blog, and check out her Pinterest page, Twitter account, as well as Facebook.


About the Author:

April 29 - bio pic for stefanova

NAfME member Maria Stefanova-Mar is the author of where she shares ideas with string educators. Maria works as a pedagogy coordinator at the University of New Mexico. She also teaches orchestra full time in the Albuquerque public schools. She started a middle school program at Taylor Middle School, Albuquerque ten years ago. At the time there were only 12 students in the orchestra classes. Now it has grown to a full and successful program. The advanced students in the program just won NM state orchestra competition in the middle school category. Maria is a frequent clinician. She schedules regular presentations with the University of New Mexico students to share teaching ideas. She has been recognized from the ASTA/New Mexico Chapter with the Young Emerging Teacher Award in 2008. Now Maria serves as the ASTA president.

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