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If teachers could save time in a bottle, they’d be well-rested, wouldn’t replace breakfast with coffee, and you’d never catch them doing lesson plans on the weekends. Alas, this isn’t the case, and I’d like to help! Here are five of my favorite tasks that will save you time, whether you’re lesson planning at home or working in the classroom.

1. Turn off your social media notifications.

When you see that little notification on your social media icon, you think that it could be something important. Just in case, you check to see. And before you know it, you’ve wasted ten minutes or more scrolling through posts of people you probably should’ve unfollowed years ago. Whatever exists on social media can wait. Those close to you have your phone number and can call or text in a true emergency.

2. Set a Timer

I’ve used these Datexx TimeCube Timers for several years now. They’re quick and incredibly easy to use. You just flip the cube to the time you want, and it automatically starts a countdown. When you’re finished, you flip the cube to the blank side and it stops.

I think everyone uses these a little differently, but I use them to break up my workday into smaller, super productive chunks. I also use them when our nephews visit. It helps keep them focused when they’re finishing a task. It also keeps tabs on how much time they’re allowed with screens. Now they use them all the time; I suspect they enjoy the feeling of control they have over their time. And I enjoy the fact that it reminds all of us (especially me) to use our time wisely.

3. Make a Running List

A running list is a list that you add to regularly. For me, the point of a running list is to prioritize what I need to do over what I want to do. For example, I want to print out all of the resources in my store and file them. However, I need to write this blog post and get it published. In this case, both may be on my running list for several days. Eventually though, I’ll cross one of them out when I realize that I just don’t realistically have the time to do it all. Also, there are some tasks that I really don’t need to finish (at least not right now).

4. Turn Off Your Email Notifications

When I’m working at my desktop computer, I quit my email program so that I don’t receive notifications while I’m working. Initially, I did this because of a technical bug (long story). After it became a habit, I realized how often I’d wasted time on email in the past. Think about it. How many times do you stop what you’re doing to check your email and then struggle to get back to your planned task afterward? For me, it was often enough that I was wasting precious minutes and getting off track from my main goals of the day. Granted, you won’t be able to do this all the time. However, when you’re just at home working on lesson planning, that’s the time to remove distractions like email notifications.

5. Organize Your Email

There are many ways to organize your email, some of which you may have never explored. For example, did you know that you can create “Smart Mailboxes” using Mail on Mac? These help filter your email to more easily find what you need. Personally, I use custom flags, organized by color and label, to sort my email. If you use Google Mail, check out this guide for organizing all your mail. Once you’ve devised a way to organize your email by subject and priority, you won’t have to worry about losing it or forgetting to respond.

In the screenshot above, you can see that I’ve organized my email into four main categories; home (pictures or recipes to revisit), business (anything to do with my shop), shopping (shipping dates & arrivals), travel (hotel reservations and event tickets), and PD (professional development). This system has worked well for me for several years now, and helps me to keep everything organized.