5 Art Teacher Timesavers

One of the top complaints of educators is, “I don’t have enough time!”

And, it’s true. The school day goes by so quickly! Your prep time is filled with checking email, you’re running around between classes, and at the end of the day, you may look around your room and feel you’ve accomplished nothing.

It’s common to feel like you don’t have time to tackle everything on your seemingly endless to-do list. However, I’d argue it’s not the time you have, it’s how you use it.

5 Art Teacher Timesavers

1. Use your planning time wisely.

Perhaps the biggest place to make an impact is during your prep time. Are you using yours wisely? One tip is to prioritize your time with a series of lists.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Think of everything you have to do this week and write it down on a big master to-do list.
  2. Take out four sticky notes and label them two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, and fifteen minutes.
  3. Look at your master list and start sorting it by time. Cutting paper? Five minutes. Taking down work in the hall? Ten minutes. Continue until your master list is broken down.

This system works beautifully because when you get an extra few minutes, you can choose a task that matches the amount of time you have.

Setting a timer is another great motivator. Try setting a timer for ten minutes to see how much you can accomplish before it dings. It’s fun and works for many tasks both at school and at home.


2. Check your email at home.

Nothing feels worse than pulling into work with fifteen unread emails. Although answering emails at home might blur your work/life balance, it really can help you get a jump start on the tasks you can only do at school. Take a short amount of time to catch up each evening and save your precious prep time for cutting paper, prepping clay, emptying the drying rack, or planning lessons!


3. Ask for help.

This idea can be tough for some of us. However, finding good help can be a lifesaver.

One day, a retired art teacher in my district emailed the art teachers asking if anyone needed help. She said she was ready to give back. Guess who was one of the few people who emailed her back and said yes? ME! I thought the other people in my district were crazy!

If someone offers you help, it is ok to take it. If you don’t have people knocking on your door, reach out to the PTO or other trusted parents to see if you can find some volunteers.

4. Designate certain days for certain tasks.

Sometimes having a schedule makes it easier to complete specific tasks. Think about a task you loathe doing and try assigning a day of the week to tackle it. For me, grading is never fun. Therefore, Tuesdays are “grading day” for me. I put any extra time I have on Tuesdays toward accomplishing my grading goals.


5. Take half your lunch.

I believe it’s important to interact with my co-workers during lunch to take a break from the chaos of the art room and build relationships. However, when I am really pressed for time, I eat at my desk for half the time and use the other half of my lunch to do pressing tasks. I like knowing I used my time wisely and still took a short break to chill out.

Why the Trouble?

So, why on earth would I take all of this effort to save minutes here and there throughout the school day? The answer is 3:40 pm, the magic time. My goal every day is to leave at the end of my contracted day, which in my district is 3:40, without sacrificing the quality of my work. I want that work/home balance. I want to be able to run errands, hang out with my family, exercise, watch my favorite shows and have, well, a life outside of school.

I can’t do all of that if I am staying at school until five or six o’clock every night. It’s impossible. Instead, I stay focused at school and use every minute to the fullest. In this way, I can teach at two schools, facilitate the art department for my district, write about my experiences here, and still stay happy and healthy on most days!

What are ways you save time during your workday?

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Thanks for your comment! I’ve added you to my blogroll and look forward to reading your blog and getting to know you better. It looks like you have some awesome lessons and that organization is a strong point for you. I hope to learn lots from your posts about that topic especially as that is not my strongest area! Looking forward to getting to know you better!

    • Great! Thanks so much. I am sure we will be better together as we share and collaborate! Welcome to the blogging world!

  • My tip is do 1 big organization day. I had my husband home for a few hours today watching the puppy and I went to work for 5 hours and organized organized. When everything is organized it means that in a busy work week I can leave after my classes most days.

    Getting everything done during plan time is a mirage for me. I can almost reach it then it disappears (usually with some kid having a bad day that I have to counsel during my time, or calling a parent etc.:) Can I just vent and say, no other teacher would be able to understand how much time it takes to prep and clean up from 600 kids doing hands on art activities? Especially with all the differentiation and varying levels we have. Some

  • I agree. We are like air traffic controllers and the hands on is SO different from the classroom. This is why I am trying SO hard to use my prep wisely. It’s really hard to do! Great idea with the big organizational day. It ALMOST makes me want to go into school this weekend! :)

  • Jessica I took on the challenge and thought up some tips for a blog post! Can’t wait to see everybody’s! Maybe you could post a list of everyone who does it so we can check them all out.

    • Great! I would love to compile and link other people who are doing my challenge! We are gonna start this year off right! If you do it, comment on the blog and I’d be happy to do a post on it soon!

  • mrsmatott

    I just blogged my top 10 tips… thanks for sharing and for the inspiration!


  • You are SUPERWOMAN, Im in awe of your organization and motivation! I was just hired to be the new elem art teacher in a great district, so now I have 2.5 months to plan…I already have a folder of awesome ideas and tips from your blog! Thanks for the help…really. Hoepfully I will not pull my hair out during this first year!


  • Jessica Davis

    Hi! I teach grades k-5 and I have very little prep time this year. I have a time-saving tip to share. I delegate tasks to a group of fifth graders who I have dubbede “the art assistants”. It is actually a highly coveted job, so i have the interested students fill out an “application” during the first week of school, and I then select 5-7 kids who I can trust to be responsible and helpful. They come down to my room at dismissal time every day and clean, take down displays, hang projects, run errands and basically help me get things done. I could not survive without them! If you don’t think you can trust your fifth or sixth graders to help, see if you could get a few high school students who are interested in persuing a career in education to help in exchange for a college recommendation, volunteer hours,senior project, etc. (I’d have done that in high school!)

    • Thanks for your idea, Jessica!

    • Vivian

      What kinds of things to you put in the application. I love this idea!

      • Jessica Davis

        Their name (of course), homeroom, what their dismissal procedure is at the end of the day (bus #, after-school program, parent picks up, etc.) and I ask them Why do they think they would make a great art-room assistant.
        I also give a description of the duties and what I expect from them as far as performance and behavior. My assistants are not allowed to come down to my room if other teachers in the building have taken priviledges away from them that day.
        This policy keeps my assistants responsible and accountable. The classroom teachers like it because it gives them an incentive for good behavior to use with those kids.

  • treasure

    Great tips! I have taught art K-12 and I could have not done it without the help of my kids. Kids in all grades at some point have helped me prep each day! You know when you have downtime and some kids get done before the others with their projects? These kids are golden and love to help. They have set up art displays, taken down displays, organized cabinets and supplies, cleaned, cut laminated handouts, organized markers (kinders can do this!), unloaded the kiln, sharpen pencils (3rd and 4th) and so on. I am serious when I say I could not do my job without them. The only thing the kids don’t do is use the paper cutter. Sometimes they even come up with great ideas for lesson plans as well. I think this really lets the students feel like they are contributing to the classroom. Sometimes they are rewarded with prizes or and sometimes they just do it to do something different and feel special. It is teaching them to be responsible for their own learning by helping the teacher.

  • Ashley Perry

    This is great! I also check my emails at home, but unfortunately my school sends all the important emails right before schools starts! [while I’m at car duty]!  But I will be using these tips next year, especially the sticky notes one!

    • Great, Ashley, I am glad you found this helpful.
      Your blog is awesome and I love your wedding photos that you posted – So classy- Happy Anniversary!

  • RwandaArtEd

    Thank you for your tips! I’m teaching art without much training K-12 overseas and have found things to be a little overwhelming at times. Thank you for sharing! My goal is to implement at least one of these in the next week!