A Simple Way to Maximize Your Planning Time

If you’re like me, planning time in your classroom is precious. It’s a time to breathe, get things done, and clear your mind before the next group of students enters your classroom. It’s so important, yet it never seems long enough.

Although I’m a pretty organized person, making the most of my planning time has always been challenging. When I was at the elementary level, my time sometimes consisted of several small breaks spread throughout the day. At the middle school where I am now, it’s somewhat more consistent, but my cafeteria duty falls right in the middle of my planning period.

If you also have a challenging planning schedule, or if you can never seem to complete all of your tasks within your allotted time, then I have a system for you to try.

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Here is the simple organization system I use to help me maximize my planning time.

First, to make sure you are using your time to the fullest, make a list.

For me, it is essential that I have a clear list of tasks each day or my life falls apart.

At work, I make a list of everything I need to do during my planning block. This list includes things like cutting paper, calling parents, organizing paints, and hanging artwork. It’s a typical list of tasks an art teacher might have in a day.

Next, color-code the list.

Because I am a visual person, I prioritize my list from most to least pressing using colors. The highest priority tasks are colored red, and the least are green. There is a rainbow of tasks that fall on the spectrum of importance between red and green. This gives me an easy visual reference for how many important tasks I have to complete.

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Finally, estimate how much time each task will take.

The last step to my system is to estimate how much time each of the jobs on my list will take. This step is important because it helps me visualize my planning period and how the work will flow in the time I have.

It also helps me to choose the order of my tasks. If I only have 10 minutes, I might look at my list to see what can I do with that time. Cutting paper takes 5 minutes, so that could be a perfect fit for a small block of time.

I add the time each task is expected to take next to it. Sometimes my time estimates are way off, especially if it’s something I’ve never done before. If that happens to you, don’t worry. You’re just estimating. Do your best.

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This simple list system has transformed my planning time. I used to flit from task to task, sometimes leaving work unfinished because I ran out of time. After implementing this system, I get things done more quickly and stay much more focused as well.

How do you maximize your planning time?

Do you have planning time tips to share?

Anne-Marie Slinkman

Anne-Marie teaches elementary art in Virginia. She is a life-long learner who is passionate about providing relevant and meaningful art experiences for all students.

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  • Melissa Gilbertsen

    I’m definitely going to try this. I just get so overwhelmed sometimes with ALL the stuff to stuff into a day that I sabotage myself by doing the easier stuff. This leaves me scrambling when I’ve got the hard stuff left and no time to do it. Thanks for the clever…and logical tip.

  • D. Mac

    Color coding! So easy and logical, yet I never thought of it! My whole room is color coded! Why didn’t I think of this!

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