Home > Blog > Prioritizing Your Time As An Early Educator
s care providers, it often becomes natural to neglect our own needs. We use up all our time making sure the children in our care are happy and cared for, often at the expense of adequate sleep, nutrition, and emotional well-being. It isn’t until we become truly overwhelmed with our work that we step back and re-evaluate things. But instead of getting to that breaking point, there are strategies that can help us avoid that situation altogether.
It’s easy to feel the constant pressure due to our endless responsibilities. But I’d like to suggest an essential action for successfully accomplishing your
goals when needed – delegate. You may truly believe there is no one capable of doing any of your necessary tasks as well as you, but you must learn to let go of that mentality. So what if items are put away on the third shelf instead of the second shelf? At least they’re put away. From an early educator’s view, I know how hard it is to let go of what needs to be done. But my motto has become, “If someone offers help, take it!”
I have also had to let go of my comparisons between how others do things and how I would have done them. This is self-destructive and stress-inducing!
Manage Your Time
A few years ago, a colleague shared a funny but oh-so-true video entitled, “Age-activated Attention Deficit Disorder.” (Check this out on YouTube!). I realized it had less to do with age and more to do with lack of focus and not seeing tasks through to completion– both of which are a problem for most, but especially for those of us responsible for a room full of children and for everything else going on in our lives!
Sometimes when we have a lot to do, it’s hard to stay focused on completing one task at a time. You may think your multitasking is working, but that can be stressful in it of itself. It might seem as though a lot is getting done, but at the end of the day, very little has been accomplished and most is only half-baked. This is why prioritizing our time is essential in our line of work, since our days are already full of job responsibilities, we might not know what to do when other things pop up that we must take care of. Even creating a mental note for yourself will help you keep track of your time and what needs to get done first according to your own priorities.
Have a Plan of Action
To avoid these problems, I have created and incorporated a simple daily strategy plan into my morning routine. In other words, it’s a daily schedule that will help you map out all your tasks. This daily schedule, which can be written on a notepad, on a board, or even through a phone app, helps me remember the important pressing projects, as well as the stuff that can wait. Most importantly, it provides a solution to prioritizing everything.
This daily plan has brought sanity to my life and will do the same for yours. Sitting down with my new daily strategy plan over morning coffee has made all the difference. Before I even begin, I copy off the unfinished business from the previous day and write it at the top of the daily plan.
Then, I create the heading, “Brain Unload,” under which I jot down all the thoughts, ideas, issues, and things to do that are filling up my head. Now that they’re written down, they won’t be forgotten!
Next, there’s a space to rough in my schedule for the day, so I stay on time and know what’s coming up. Then, I use the spot titled, “Non-Negotiables” to list the top five things that absolutely must get done that day.
Make Time for Yourself
Finally, there’s a space titled, “My Little Reward for the Day.” This is reserved for one thing I can look forward to doing at the end of my day. Usually, it isn’t anything spectacular – maybe going out for a simple dinner with my husband, watching my favorite TV show, digging into that new novel, or FaceTime with one of my kids. The point is, you need to make time for something you enjoy that is not work or responsibility-related. This is so important in relieving stress and renewing our energy!
And, not to be forgotten…at the very bottom is a short list of longer term goals or events that I am looking forward to accomplishing and enjoying. This can be a professional development event, like the Councils’ 2016 Early Educators Leadership Conference in October, or a project that I hope to complete. The point is that we never want to lose sight of our goals and keeping them in sight every day is a great way to make sure we follow through.
Try my daily strategy plan for a week and see if it makes a difference in your sanity and focus. It is sure to translate into more productivity and effectiveness in your early childhood program, too!
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