Avoid stress! Tips to help you get organized!
by Sue Gruber, M.A.
Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers www.bgrubercourses.com
Regular contributor to the Gazette
September 1, 2008
At the beginning of each school year one of the most shocking things to me is how busy life really is! It's a crazy time at school and a hectic time at home. Feeling too busy easily leads to feeling overwhelmed and that equals stress! Here are some ways to make the most of your time and carve out some time for yourself in the process! Yes, it CAN happen—you can have a life beyond teaching! Let’s focus on time saving tips to try outside of school to make the most of the time we have each day!
I bet you have heard the expression, “If you want to get something done—ask a busy person!” Why is it that some people just seem to get so much done and others can’t figure out where all the time went? We all have the same amount of time each day—twenty-four hours that fly right by! Here are some tips to make the most of your precious time!
Get Organized and Stay that Way!
I still remember the time when I first started teaching and a parent explained to me that her child was late because she couldn’t find her shoes. I remember being absolutely stunned. How could that be? It didn’t even sound possible to me. I get it now—I have a school-age son. Mornings can be wild! The last thing you need to do is track down library books, backpacks or shoes every morning!
Designate a spot at home where you always put the things you need to take to work or school each day. Each person in your family needs such a place labeled with his or her name! Then, when it is time for the family to blast off in the morning in different directions, everyone can grab their things and head out the door. You can use baskets, plastic bins, spots on shelves or whatever works in your household. Frantic morning searches are eliminated once everyone gets in the habit of stashing their things in the right spots!
Errands & Shopping
Is there anything more frustrating that unloading your groceries at home and realizing you forgot something you really need? Get in the habit of making lists of the things you need to buy. When you think of something you need or the minute you use the last of the olive oil, jot it on the appropriate list. I always have four lists tacked on my kitchen bulletin board. I have lists for the grocery store, Costco (a giant warehouse store), Trader Joe’s (what did I do before Trader Joe’s?), and Home Depot. When I need batteries I jot it on my Costco list, potting soil goes on my Home Depot list, and pitted kalamata olives go on my Trader Joe's list. Since I only go to Costco every month or two, it's easy to forget things that I really need. I couldn't live without all of my lists. (My husband, Matt, reports that he could easily live without the "honey do" list which is conveniently located next to the Home Depot list!)
Group your errands to cut down on travel time and sky-high gas expenses. It can be agonizing but it’s much more efficient to go on a four-stop errand marathon than to make four separate trips. Don't forget your lists!
When you cook dinner on Sunday night, make sure it is something that provides leftovers for dinner on Monday or Tuesday night. You might want to get ambitious and have a cooking mini-marathon. Cook main dishes that freeze well and stock up your freezer. Make a list of all the ready-to-go meals that you’ve made and post it on your freezer. Check out the list in the morning and grab something to thaw out for dinner. Cross off the meals as you use them. I already have the frozen spaghetti sauce on my hit list for the first night of school!
When I was growing up, my mom, Barbara started a tradition in our family. As soon as we reached the magical age of thirteen we were taught how to cook our favorite meal. We cooked that meal one time each month. With four kids in the family, my parents had a night off in the kitchen each week. I was the spaghetti queen, my brothers chose tacos, chili, and barbecued chicken for their special dishes. The chef of the night also got to choose a dessert for the family. Choosing the dessert was the hook that made this fun and hassle free!
Continuing this cooking tradition with my son is probably the closest I’ll ever get to having a private chef! I know Cooper will pick mac and cheese for his night. I’m sure we’ll end the meal with grape popsicles. But hey…I'm not cooking, so that works for me!
The next time you buy a birthday card, don’t stop with just one card. Buy a bunch of cards. The next time you need a card, you won’t have to dash out to buy one. You can flip through your stash and find the perfect card. You might also want to load up on gift wrap for all sorts of occasions so you have it handy!
Be a Drop-out!
If you belong to an organization or participate on a committee and you’d rather not be there, drop out! I joined a women’s business association and had to force myself go to the meetings. Finally I asked myself, why I was going to meetings I hated? I’m glad I asked myself that question; I quit the group the next day. It just wasn’t for me!
Technology is your friend!
Embrace technology and make it work for you! Shop online if it saves you time. My father is tall and thin (why didn’t I get those genes?!) and wears Levi 501’s in a size that is difficult to find in the stores. He found he can order them online in minutes and they are delivered to his doorstep. A delivery charge is a bargain if you consider the cost of your time if you go from store to store searching for an item.
Try shopping for groceries online. Most of the grocery stores offer free delivery to new customers and then offer discounts to keep you as a customer. Once you get the hang of it, online grocery shopping can be a huge time saver. I’m convinced that I save money when I grocery shop online because I’m not throwing impulse items into my cart. It’s wonderful to have groceries delivered to your kitchen during an especially busy week. On many store websites, you can order several weeks in advance. I fantasize about being so organized that a truckload of groceries is delivered the morning after returning from a trip.
Go to the library online—you can put books on hold and be notified when they come in on your public library website. Check it out!
Keep a few of the magazines or a book you haven’t had time to read yet in your car. When you have to wait for an appointment, you can catch up on your reading. If you have young children, be sure to keep a plastic tote of books and small toys in the car. Then, when they have to wait they’ll be happily occupied.
Let your phone machine or voicemail be your personal administrative assistant. Screen calls and don’t let a gabby friend or relative take away time you wanted to spend doing something other than talking on the phone. Don’t feel guilty! It’s important that you claim some time for yourself.
All-year Gift Shopping
Shop for gifts for holidays and birthdays throughout the year. I just bought a Petal fairy costume (it’s adorable) for my niece's Christmas gift. I threw it in my gift drawer. Always keep an eye out for gifts to buy and stash. It sure beats frantic last minute shopping expeditions. Load up at end-of-season sales on goodies for your gift drawer.
Are your children on the birthday party circuit? We go through periods where it feels like there’s a birthday party every weekend. It can be expensive and time consuming to shop for all those parties. Stock up on bargains that you know your children’s friends will love. Last spring Costco had a huge assortment of nylon kites for about ten dollars each. I bought seven of them and tucked them under our bed. Whenever Cooper is invited to a party, he “shops” for the perfect kite in my bedroom! My kite supply is dwindling. We’ve already decided on cool volcano kits for our next mass purchase!
Things to do!
As you’re falling asleep, think about the first thing you want to accomplish the next morning. You don’t have to make a list or stress over this, but just have a general idea of what you want to do first thing. Not to worry, you can always change your mind!
The Big Question
Take a look at how you do things. Always ask if there is a simpler way to do things. Can you do something every other week, instead of on a weekly basis? Are you working harder than you should? It might be time to delegate! Get your whole family to work as a team to get jobs done such as unloading the dishwasher, feeding pets, putting away groceries and doing laundry. Just think, when your kids go off to college or to live on their own, they’ll know to separate the whites and the darks!
Cut Big Jobs into Bite-size Chunks
Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do a huge job all at once. Break big projects into more do-able mini-projects. Don’t stress out about a massive spring-cleaning at your house. Instead, once in a while, when the mood strikes, organize one cupboard, closet or dresser. Your family will remember the fun things you did together—not the crumbs in the silverware drawer.
Magazine Marketing Madness
Have you noticed that as soon as you subscribe to a magazine, you start getting special offers and renewal notices? I love my magazines but enough already with the constant solicitations for renewals. On the computer, I listed the magazines I subscribe to. I looked at the labels and added the expiration dates next to the titles of the magazines. Now, when I get a renewal notice I can look at the list and see if it really is due for renewal. Also, when I send in a payment I make a note of it.
A few years ago, I subscribed to a magazine in my dog’s name! Now Chloe, the collie, gets all kinds of exciting junk mail to read! She even has return address stickers of her very own that came addressed to Ms. Chloe Gruber. Who knows, she just might go for one of those credit card offers someday and then go shop for a fancy collar!
When you take a course or attend a seminar, listen for the ideas that do not require hours of teacher-development time. Always be on the lookout for ways to simplify and streamline your work at home and on the job. If the instructor is explaining an activity that takes tons of time, ask yourself what is the basic idea and how can you do it simply. If it can’t be done without spending hours on it, ask yourself if it is worth that kind of time. When you hear others gripe about spending the weekend at school in the classrooms, you can pat yourself on the back for not being there.
I love September! The school year is fresh and new and the possibilities are endless! Use these tips and save time where you can and invest that time in yourself for a change. Teaching can consume you if you let it. Commit yourself to a year of balance between yourself, your family and teaching. Enjoy every minute!
P.S. 100% Practical Ways to Save Time and Work is our most popular course. It will help you work smarter, not harder and be an energized, enthusiastic teacher. You will use the ideas every day in your classroom!
Copyright 2008: Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers
Sue Gruber taught the upper grades for years. In a moment of wild abandon, she decided to take the plunge and teach the grade she feared most—kindergarten! Sue just wrapped up her eleventh year in kindergarten and loves it. Who knows, the next grade level change might be to sixth grade!
Sue Gruber and Barbara Gruber, a mother-daughter writing team, have created dozens of products for Frank Schaffer Publications, Scholastic, The Education Center and other publishers. Barbara is a former teacher who was employed by Frank Schaffer Publications from l980 to l996. She developed and presented curriculum seminars nationwide for K-6 teachers.
Sue and Barbara launched Barbara Gruber Online Courses for Teachers in 2002. They personally write each course with today’s students and busy teachers in mind. Teachers can do coursework completely on their own, or, if they wish, interact on line with others. They can earn one, two or three semester units from University of the Pacific. Barbara and Sue provide practical strategies and ideas that can be put into action immediately without creating more work for teachers. Barbara and Sue have created exactly what teachers are looking for—teacher-friendly courses at affordable prices. You can find out about their courses at www.bgrubercourses.com
Sue teaches full time, manages Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers and loves writing for the Teachers.Net Gazette. She lives in Sonoma County with her husband and son. Barbara consults for Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers; however, she has “retired” from the business. Retirement for Barbara means she’s busier than ever in Healdsburg, California on a 25-acre working farm called Healdsburg Country Gardens. She and her husband are grape growers for local wineries, have three guest houses for visitors and host wine country weddings.