3 Tips and Strategies to Avoid Working Late and on Weekends

Are you bringing tons of work home, staying late, and spending your weekends planning? This is all too common among teachers, and I know we've all done it from time to time. While there may be seasons where this is inevitable, we don't want to get into a long-term habit of doing this week after week. We all know that working late and working weekends leads to burnout, which is never a good thing. If you'd like to find a little more balance in your teacher life, check out these tips to avoid working late and on weekends. 

Avoid working late with these helpful tips and tricks to help you manage your teacher time wisely and get the most out of your school day.

Let's Talk about Expectations 

Over the years, I've learned that many teachers are perfectionists. I know for me personally, this is definitely true! When I was new to the classroom, I really wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted to make sure all of my lessons were perfectly prepped, my classroom was sparkling, and all of the grading was caught up. 

Managing expectations is key if you want to be able to keep school work at school avoid working late or taking work home on the weekends.

I quickly learned this isn't exactly the most realistic expectation. As a first-grade teacher, my planning and prep period doesn't allow me to do every single thing I want to do on a daily basis. Shocker, I know! But the truth is, time is limited. Between staff meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and all of the other daily tasks, this means something's gotta give. 

As a new teacher, I took SO much work home, spent hours prepping materials while watching T.V. in the evenings, stayed late to grade papers, and planned curriculum every weekend. This was exhausting and led me to feel like I was working all.the.time. 

Teacher Mindset Shift

The biggest gift I ever gave myself was the permission to accept that I might not ever feel perfectly caught up as a teacher. I might always have a pile of papers to grade. I might have to reduce the number of prep-heavy activities every week. I might even have to be ok with intentionally leaving work at school. All of this is 100% okay, because if I'm going to show up as my BEST self for the little people in my care, then I need to get some rest too. 

Develop a healthy teacher mindset to allow time for you to relax and take care of yourself without working and on weekends.

The moment I accepted this fact and stopped trying to be perfect, teaching and prepping became SO much more doable. So before we dive into my favorite tips and strategies to avoid working late and on weekends, I hope you'll give yourself this permission too. You're doing GREAT, teacher-friend. Perfect doesn't exist, and we certainly don't need to chase it! 

1. Batch ALL The Things 

Alright, let's get to the tips! First up, my very favorite thing in the whole world - batching. Batching is doing like-tasks all at once to save time. Once I got in a groove with batching, this one made such a HUGE difference. You can batch just about anything, and I definitely use this as my #1 strategy to avoid working late. Batching takes some discipline to stick with, but it's TOTALLY worth it! 

Keep your grading and projects manageable by batching everything which will help you stay organized and on task which will in turn help you avoid working late or on weekends.

One of the first places you can use batching is during lesson planning. Set aside some time once per month to plan ALL of your lessons for the upcoming month. While this may seem like a daunting task, I think you'll find that once you get on a roll, this method is SO much more time efficient. You'll likely still need to make some minor tweaks each week, but having a general plan helps ensure you're hitting all of the key standards and activities each week. 

Batching in Action

Next, look for other areas you can batch your work. Some of the things that come to mind are making copies, prepping center materials, and getting homework packets ready. If you have parent helpers definitely utilize them! Arranging for parent helpers to do these tasks, or sending copies to your print center is a great way to make sure everything is ready for the week. Plus, since your lessons will already be planned so far in advance, you'll already know exactly what you need.

Final consonant blends worksheets like these are a great way to put your batching skills to work and will definitely help you avoid working late on prepping work!

For example, let's say I have Final Consonant Blends on my lesson plan for next week. Using this resource, I would print and prep the sorting activities and games by cutting them out, laminating, and storing them in plastic bags. Then, I'd make enough copies of the no-prep worksheets and organize them by day. When this is all done, it leads me to my next task, getting set up for the next day. 

2. Set Up Your Classroom for the Next Day 

Every day before I left school, I would take a few minutes to set up my classroom for the following day. This takes a bit of planning, but there's nothing better than walking into a classroom that's prepped and ready to go first thing in the morning! 

Take a little time at the end of each day to set up for the next day. This will help you be more prepared and avoid working late on Fridays to prep for the next week!

Then, in the mornings, I would use any extra time I had to prepare for the next week of activities. This time is perfect for cutting out center materials, gathering supplies, or checking your lesson plan for final tweaks.

Set Up for the Week Ahead Too!

Every Thursday afternoon, I set up what I was doing early the next week. I'd gather copies for centers for the next week and put them in the file drawers. This makes it really easy to pull out copies daily. I used drawers like this and labeled them for each day of the week. The bottom drawer was labeled extra and came in handy for additional copies and materials.

Setting up for the week ahead is easy with simple storage drawers like these which means you can avoid working late on a Friday.

This system allowed me to leave by the end of my contract time on Friday, knowing that everything was ready to go for the following week. I might have done some "fun work" like looking for new ideas to try, but I never had to worry about prepping or thinking about what we were doing next week. This really helped offer me some peace to actually relax over the weekend!

I did stay a little past my contracted hours Monday through Thursday to get things ready, but once you have your system down, your copies made, and your lesson plans batched - you'll likely find this doesn't take too long either! Plus, staying a few minutes extra during the week is totally worth it if you can leave right when your contracted hours are up on Friday! 

3. Balance Center Games with Low-Prep Activities

This is another great tip, especially if you find yourself spending all of your time prepping activities and center materials. In first grade, we use a lot of hands-on learning materials that take time to prepare. Hands-on learning is key for young students, so I definitely don't recommend cutting these out of your plans, but instead try to strike a balance. 

For example, if we're using some activities that require more time to get ready, I like to sprinkle in some low-prep activities and no-prep worksheets too. This plural nouns resource is a great example. This unit has some quick and easy prep work for the anchor charts and sorting activities. All you need to do to get these ready is a few quick cuts, and you're good to go! If you do happen to have a few extra minutes, I recommend laminating them as well. Then store them in a zipper bag after your students have used them. Then, next year you can skip the prep step altogether! 

Using center games like these which require no prep means you won't have to spend extra time planning out each and every activity which will lead to you being able to avoid working late and on weekends.

This resource also comes with a variety of no-prep, print-and-go games, and worksheets too. These activities can literally be printed and handed out for immediate use. Try adding some activities like these to your centers and small groups if you need to balance out some of your more prep-heavy lessons, while still providing meaningful activities for your students to work on! 

Find Easy Prep Crafts

You might think lightening your prep load means that there's no time for crafts, but this is quite the opposite. Resources like these Fact Families Activities are a perfect choice if you need to reduce your prep work a bit. These activities include print-and-go worksheets that are great for mastering fact families and even include an easy-prep craft that has students do most of the cutting. 

Easy prep crafts like these are not only great for you because it will help you avoid working late but they are also a great way for your students to be creative while learning or practicing key concepts.

Choosing low-prep craft options is a great way to keep fun and creative activities in your lesson plan without having to spend hours cutting them out yourself. Personally, I love these types of crafts and find that they really boost engagement. Ensuring you have a few of these types of activities in your lesson plan every week is a great way to lighten the load AND keep things exciting for students!

Big Takeaways to Avoid Working Late 

Have a work plan to help you finish all the main tasks during work time.  Be okay with the fact that it might not all get done or done perfectly. Batching is a great way to get big chunks of the same work done at one time.  This makes it easier on yourself in the long run. 

Try a few of these tips and decide what works best for you. This will look different for everyone, and you can adjust these strategies and tips to fit your schedule, but the true game changer for me was batching. In the beginning, this process will feel tedious and like a lot of work, but stick with it! Once you've got your system down - you'll be SO thankful you did it! 

And don't forget to sprinkle in those low-prep center activities, print-and-go worksheets, and easy prep crafts too! Being strategic with the types of lessons you choose will allow you to touch on all of the important standards and study areas, without having to give up your weekends to prep! 

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Avoid working late and on weekends with helpful tips and strategies you can put into use today. Learn how to use no prep resources, how to easily organize your lessons, and get advice on how to balance your home and work life. You will be well on your way to less stress and more fun in the classroom when you can avoid working late and on weekends this year. #thechocolateteacher #avoidworkinglate #howtoavoidworkinglate #teacherworklifebalance

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