5 Art Teacher Timesavers

One of the top complaints of educators is, “I don’t have enough time!”

And, it’s true. The school day goes by so quickly! Your prep time is filled with checking email, you’re running around between classes, and at the end of the day, you may look around your room and feel you’ve accomplished nothing.

It’s common to feel like you don’t have time to tackle everything on your seemingly endless to-do list. However, I’d argue it’s not the time you have, it’s how you use it.

5 Art Teacher Timesavers

1. Use your planning time wisely.

Perhaps the biggest place to make an impact is during your prep time. Are you using yours wisely? One tip is to prioritize your time with a series of lists.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Think of everything you have to do this week and write it down on a big master to-do list.
  2. Take out four sticky notes and label them two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, and fifteen minutes.
  3. Look at your master list and start sorting it by time. Cutting paper? Five minutes. Taking down work in the hall? Ten minutes. Continue until your master list is broken down.

This system works beautifully because when you get an extra few minutes, you can choose a task that matches the amount of time you have.

Setting a timer is another great motivator. Try setting a timer for ten minutes to see how much you can accomplish before it dings. It’s fun and works for many tasks both at school and at home.


2. Check your email at home.

Nothing feels worse than pulling into work with fifteen unread emails. Although answering emails at home might blur your work/life balance, it really can help you get a jump start on the tasks you can only do at school. Take a short amount of time to catch up each evening and save your precious prep time for cutting paper, prepping clay, emptying the drying rack, or planning lessons!


3. Ask for help.

This idea can be tough for some of us. However, finding good help can be a lifesaver.

One day, a retired art teacher in my district emailed the art teachers asking if anyone needed help. She said she was ready to give back. Guess who was one of the few people who emailed her back and said yes? ME! I thought the other people in my district were crazy!

If someone offers you help, it is ok to take it. If you don’t have people knocking on your door, reach out to the PTO or other trusted parents to see if you can find some volunteers.

4. Designate certain days for certain tasks.

Sometimes having a schedule makes it easier to complete specific tasks. Think about a task you loathe doing and try assigning a day of the week to tackle it. For me, grading is never fun. Therefore, Tuesdays are “grading day” for me. I put any extra time I have on Tuesdays toward accomplishing my grading goals.


5. Take half your lunch.

I believe it’s important to interact with my co-workers during lunch to take a break from the chaos of the art room and build relationships. However, when I am really pressed for time, I eat at my desk for half the time and use the other half of my lunch to do pressing tasks. I like knowing I used my time wisely and still took a short break to chill out.

Why the Trouble?

So, why on earth would I take all of this effort to save minutes here and there throughout the school day? The answer is 3:40 pm, the magic time. My goal every day is to leave at the end of my contracted day, which in my district is 3:40, without sacrificing the quality of my work. I want that work/home balance. I want to be able to run errands, hang out with my family, exercise, watch my favorite shows and have, well, a life outside of school.

I can’t do all of that if I am staying at school until five or six o’clock every night. It’s impossible. Instead, I stay focused at school and use every minute to the fullest. In this way, I can teach at two schools, facilitate the art department for my district, write about my experiences here, and still stay happy and healthy on most days!

What are ways you save time during your workday?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

More from Jessica