You wouldn't be an early childhood education professional if you didn't love the work and spending time with young children. But sooner or later, every teacher starts to feel overwhelmed by the demands that are placed on him or her. If it happens early in the career, the teacher may give up and quit the profession. If it happens later on, the teacher could lose interest and early childhood education becomes just another run of the mill boring job. Either way, it’s not the way to build a career and get the most out of this rewarding vocation. It’s easy to say you should cut back and not take on more than you can comfortably handle. But we know it doesn't work that way. Too much work and not enough time is part of a teacher’s life.
So if you can’t really reduce your work load, the other option is to manage your time better. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can do with a little organization and focus. Here are some ideas on how to manage your time better:
- Keep a log of how much time you spend on different activities each working day – home, school, commuting, shopping, chores at home, exercising etc. Do this for a week. This will tell you how balanced your life is.
- Like most teachers you probably don’t have enough “me” time. Try to rearrange what you can to create time for yourself. What about commuting? That’s time to yourself that you should make the most of.
- Start using Post-its, or a planner to note down all the things you need to do. Use different colors to denote priorities. Tick off the jobs as they get done. Seeing the size of the list shrinking will give you a feeling of achievement and energize you. Be ruthless in allocating priorities. It’s easy to label everything as Important or Most Important. But that defeats the whole purpose of prioritization.
- Accept the fact that you are not perfect and that you can’t be a perfectionist in everything. Some things can be left at being ‘good enough.’
- Set targets that are achievable, not ideal. The target must have defined parameters in terms of quality, time and volume of work.
- Everyone has a time of day that they feel the most energetic and empowered. Find out yours and try to do as much of the important or hard work as possible during that time.
- Do not be afraid to reward yourself when you feel you have earned it. You have.
- Talk to other teachers or even those in other jobs and find out how they manage their time. You never know the kind of valuable tips you can pick up.
- Keep an eye on your health at all times. It’s easy to put off going to a doctor for a minor ailment, but when it becomes more serious and you are stuck in bed for a few days or more, all your plans go down the drain. Make sure you get enough exercise. Remember that the best of plan and intentions mean nothing if your body is going to let you down.
- And finally, keep in mind that you cannot do everything. There are times when you will have to say ‘No.’ It’s not an easy thing to do but unless you learn the art of doing it with politeness and tact, the load on you will only increase and every aspect of your life will suffer.
If time management is able to ease the pressure on you, do not make the mistake of letting yourself be burdened by even more responsibilities. You need your “me” time and your relaxation. It’s what gives you the energy and patience you need to teach young children.