Planning lessons that will keep a class engaged and motivated takes enough time on its own without adding all the other things teachers have to contend with like parent meetings and conferences. Here are some time-saving tips that teachers can use to make the most of their precious free time. Their simplicity may surprise you.

Make a map of your agenda

Perhaps the best way to start organizing your life to maximize your time is to have some sort of daily planner or scheduler that outlines your responsibilities. This may sound like remedial stuff here, but when it comes to balancing your free time and making sure you use it efficiently, a planner is an indispensable tool.

So many options

Nowadays we don’t have to carry around those bulky leather folders with the huge notebook-sized pages our parents lugged around. This is the digital age, and teachers have myriad choices to help keep themselves organized. Most PDAs have a calendar function, as do many cell phones. Many have the ability to set alarms and notices that will remind you of important upcoming events. Take advantage of all the technology you have at your fingertips.

Whatever the avenue you choose, the most important thing is that you put in the effort and sit down regularly to make a schedule. Over time you’ll find that this planning will become second nature. There is no bigger time thief than moving forward without a plan.

Schedule time in for yourself as well, since decompressing from the rigors of school is just as important as anything else, so that you can bring your best teaching ability to your students.

Be a neat freak

The temptation to keep every single scrap of paper and materials can at times be overwhelming. Avoid it at all costs. Make your community happy by recycling as much of that wasted paper as you can. As for other class materials that have to be kept, establish a workable file system so your classroom materials are easy to find at a moment’s notice.

Stay organized in the classroom as well

Keeping your desk neat and tidy isn’t the only way to make the most of your time. What about all those papers and handouts for the class? Encourage your students to polish their organization skills as well by requiring them to keep tabs on their own assignments.

For other notes and resources the students need, consider giving this stuff to them as a whole, at the beginning of a session or semester. That way you only have to keep a master copy for little Johnny who struggles to keep himself organized. You’ll be doing both of you a favor by encouraging better organizational skills.

Making the most of your time as a teacher can be difficult, but when it comes to organization, five seconds of pre-planning can save you hours of searching in the long run. -KATIE WILSON

This post was contributed by Katie Wilson, who writes about the universities online. She welcomes your feedback at KatieWilson06 at gmail.com

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Photo credit: gothick_matt on Flickr.