Whether you’re a teacher, a professor, a dean, a principal, or even in a supporting role, such as administration, it seems like being overworked, time-poor and having little to no work-life balance is just par for the course for those working in the education sector. Solutions need to be found quickly. Otherwise, we risk losing a generation of teachers to stress, burnout and simple disengagement.
The education sector may be the worst affected, but it isn’t alone, with workplace stress at record levels across the board. Organizations and industries are moving to address this issue head-on, with programs that educate employees in ways to reduce anxiety and better manage their time, supplemented by numerous apps and tools that help workers of all stripes develop a better relationship with work.
In the past, the education sector has been slow to adopt new technologies of all kinds. However, educational institutions have been coming around to the potential benefits of technology with the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced vast numbers of schools to pivot overnight to online classes, demanding that the sector finally starts to embrace edtech. But that newfound love of technology shouldn’t end with teaching tools, as there’s a considerable number of apps and solutions that could help all those working in the education sector to manage their time better and lead to a healthier, more enjoyable relationship with their careers.
Here are seven of the top tools to get you started.
To paraphrase the 19th century British mathematician Lord Kelvin, “If you can measure it, you can improve it.” This is why time tracking apps like Toggl are the best place to start when looking to improve time management within your establishment. Users can log the hours they dedicate to each of their projects and even classify projects according to types, using either a mobile app or a web-based version.
- If your whole IT or communications team uses Toggl, you can identify the most time-consuming activities or projects and look for ways to streamline those processes. If IT support spends 25 percent of its time answering some common questions, the business case for creating an IT self-help portal is easier to make and understand.
- Administrative employees and assistants can also see where the majority of their time and resources go. If repetitive tasks like scheduling faculty meetings or managing the department head’s expenses take up large slices of time, integrating time-saving apps that take the work out of these issues could be smart.
- Teachers and lecturers may not immediately see the value in tracking their hours, with 60 percent of their time, on average, spent giving classes. However, just following your hours for a couple of weeks can lend you incredible insight into where you spend the rest of your time. You’ll learn whether you’re doing an excellent job at managing priorities or, as is often the case, you lose too many hours to low-priority tasks.
“Fail to plan and you plan to fail,” said Benjamin Franklin and just about every high school sports coach of the past 50 years. However, there’s more than just a hint of truth in the cliche. One hour of planning is worth as much as 10 hours of aimlessly doing, so it makes sense that people who keep to-do lists and set goals (only 14 percent of people fall into this bracket, apparently) are considerably more successful than those who just take life as it comes.
If you are one of life’s planners, chances are your life is either organized via an endless assortment of notebooks and Post-It notes, or you have already made a move to a digital alternative. There are plenty of options, but we like Todoist as it doesn’t involve a programming degree to use and the web and mobile apps are both arranged simply. Plus, you can start with just your personal to-do list on there, then create shared lists with family members (shopping lists or a list of chores, for example) or colleagues, if you’re working on a project together and want to streamline the planning without needing to learn the daunting intricacies of Gantt software.
Planning tasks is one thing; getting them ticked off the to-do list is quite another. Unfortunately, for all too many people, technology has become more a hindrance than a help in doing just that. How many times have you been grading a stack of papers only for an email, Instagram comment or chat bubble to pop up on your mobile and catch your attention? Suddenly, half an hour has passed and you remember about those papers you were grading.
According to research, we get distracted from the primary task we’re working on every 11 minutes. Once we are distracted, it can take as long as 25 minutes to return to full productivity. That results in the average employee losing more than two hours a day to distractions. If you’re already spending six hours a day giving classes, your schedule doesn’t allow for that much unproductive time without it running into your private time.
Focus Keeper is based on the Pomodoro Technique, which assumes that people work most effectively and efficiently in 25-minute bursts with five-minute breaks in between. If you’ve got some serious work to get through, turn Focus Keeper on, turn other alerts off and allow the app to tell you when 25 minutes is up and then when it’s time to buckle down again. You can customize the session and break lengths if you find your brain beats to a different rhythm. The tracking feature will let you see when you’ve been most efficient so you can start adapting your schedule accordingly.
Organizations are built on a foundation of meetings and schools are no different. Be it teacher-parent conferences, student-professor one-to-ones, faculty meetings, Dean’s office meetings, recruitment calls or any of the usual get-togethers that occur between teams, chances are you spend hours per week in meetings. And you probably spend just as long trying to organize them in the first place.
From teachers to assistants and supporting staff, Doodle is a no-brainer, taking all the hassle and, most importantly, time out of scheduling meetings. For example, professors can avoid double-booking time with multiple students by connecting their Google and Microsoft Office calendars to their Doodle accounts. They can also skip the email game and simply send a personalized Doodle URL to their students, fellow faculty members and administrators. The polls/group meeting feature is exceptionally powerful and time-saving when it comes to meetings that involve a lot of busy participants, like faculty meetings. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
Even in today’s highly digitized world, you’d be surprised by just how many teachers and departments still take an analog approach to preparing for classes and sharing notes. Bookshelves full of texts, folders crammed with teaching notes, and a desk overwhelmed by printed assignments are still commonplace.
It becomes challenging for students and other teachers to find documents when they need them. This, in turn, leads to extra phone calls or emails trying to locate the documents, all of which piles on more work for already overworked educators.
Using tools like Google Drive or Dropbox means documents can be shared quickly and easily. Students and teachers can use these could-based services as a repository for their notes, supporting materials and even their assignments. Access is 24/7 and important notes or texts will never be lost again.
From academics who travel widely for conferences or give guest lectures to college recruiters who appear at fairs around the country, school staff is responsible for a lot of expense reports. These often have to be filed and processed before faculty members can be reimbursed. For a lot of organizations, that process is prolonged and laborious.
On average, each expense report takes 20 minutes to complete and costs around €50 to process. One in five reports contains errors that take an extra 18 minutes to correct, placing an additional burden on the accounts department. The whole process is so problematic that more than half of employees say they’ve failed to claim expenses in the past, using their own money to cover costs that occurred representing the school. Not ideal.
Easy-to-use and intuitive expense software like Expensify can quickly solve many of these issues. School staff can simply snap images of receipts and log miles on-the-go via the mobile app, and the image is scanned and translated into the relevant data and added to a report. The software also recognizes errors or double entries. This makes much of the process self-serve and reduces the workload on the accounts department.
- A school app
There are hundreds available, catering for specific segments of the education sector, from daycare and preschool right through to colleges. Some are all-singing-all-dancing school management platforms that include everything from payment processing and booking classrooms to document management and scheduling the school bus arrival times.
Whatever you choose, the basis for any school app should be easier communication. It’s essential that teachers can communicate with an entire class (or their parents) via the app and that it’s easy to find vital information, such as the dates of holidays, any changes to the regular schedule and contact details for other specific departments. That will save the whole school hours of answering emails and phone calls and leads to a more engaged and informed student body.
If you’d like to learn how Doodle works and how it can help you master time management at school, get in touch with one of our scheduling experts.