Time. It’s true when people say it’s precious …especially as an educator. We’re constantly balancing data, parent communication and relationships, meetings, testing, and the list goes on (and on). We all want more time to do the things we love, like plan creative lessons and differentiate to meet each and every student in our room. And while it’s impossible to add time to our day, we can find ways to save little bits of it in everything we do. And these little bits can add up, helping us become more productive, creating more time for us to do the things we love.
As a previous classroom teacher, instructional coach, and principal, I have always had to manage a multitude of projects. And for me, it was difficult to juggle until I came up with systems. Systems keep me in line, especially when they include tried and true time-saving tips. It’s amazing how much time one little trick can save you, especially when you use the trick over and over throughout the day.
So, here are my top five time-saving tips that I continue to rely on every day:
TIP #1: Organize Your Chrome Tabs
Let’s start with Tabs! I feel like the number of Tabs open on my computer at any one time can be a direct reflection of how much my brain is trying to do. It can get overwhelming without a system. Enter, Pinned Tabs.
Pinning Chrome tabs allows a user to organize tab utilization. When you pin a tab, a few things happen:
- The tab narrows and moves to the left of your window
- The “X” disappears so you can’t accidentally close a tab
- Pinned tabs can only be rearranged within each other, and your group of pinned tabs stays furthest to the left
In order to pin a tab, you simply right-click on the tab and select “Pin.” In order to unpin a tab, you right-click on the tab again, and click “Unpin.”
While in the classroom, I always had my Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Classroom, Gradebook, and class website Pinned. In my position now, I continue to utilize pinned tabs, but they vary between projects and accounts. One thing is for sure, no matter what I’m working on, Gmail, Calendar, and Drive are always pinned.
TIP #2: Easily Access Your Most Important Tabs (Even if You Close Chrome)
Pinned tabs is always one of the most popular tips in my Google trainings, no matter the audience or specific focus of the training. The first question I always get after I demonstrate the skill is, “How do I keep my Pinned Tabs so they open every time I turn on my computer?” Notice how the question says turn on my computer. Yes, that means that we have to turn off our computer sometimes, actually often. Please don’t fall victim to thinking you can never turn off your computer in order to preserve your systems. This is not good for your device. Here are a few steps you can take so Chrome opens your pinned tabs every time you turn on your device and open Chrome:
- Pin your tabs
- Go into Chrome Settings (three dots next to your extensions/omnibox, then click “Settings”)
- Scroll down to “On Startup”
- Select “Continue where you left off”
The trick with this is to NOT close your Chrome window before turning off your device or quitting Chrome. You want Chrome to quit with your tabs open, so that when it reopens, it’s continuing from where you left off – tabs open.
I actually take this one step further. I am always working in at least 3 Google accounts, each in a different window on my computer (for more info on logging into Chrome with multiple accounts click here). I have my device set up to reopen all windows when I start my computer again, on top of choosing “continue where I left off” in all Chrome accounts. This way, when I shut my computer down, I leave all Chrome windows open (pinned tabs and all), so when I go to turn my computer on again, all of those windows will reopen with my tabs right where I left them. It’s a dream and a HUGE time saver for me. The way you complete this step varies, depending on what device you use, but I just wanted to be sure to mention it since it takes the time-saving to the next level.
TIP #3: Take Control …or Command
Don’t let the title of this tip confuse you too much. Most devices utilize the Control key. If you work on a Mac, however, you have a control key, but just to make things confusing, you’ll use the Command key instead of the Control key.
This simple little key can save you loads of time by creating keyboard shortcuts: combinations of keys that provide quick access to a particular function within a computer program. Much to my students’ dismay, I was not big into keyboard shortcuts. If I had a dime for every time I heard, “But Mrs. Christie, another way of getting there is to hold CONTROL plus…” Ha! I loved learning their systems – it was great to show there’s always more than one way to get somewhere in Google.
Even though I’m not an avid keyboard shortcut user, there are a few I could not live without. (If you are a Mac user, just substitute the Command key wherever you see Control):
- CTRL C will copy highlighted text and CTRL V will paste the highlighted text (think of Velcro)
- CTRL SHIFT V will paste your text to match the destination formatting. I am embarrassed to admit how long it took me to learn this one. I guess I didn’t know what I was missing until someone taught me. And if you think about it, the automatic formatting can save loads of clicks since it’ll change the font, size, color, etc. automatically. Try it. You’ll be amazed at how often you use this one!
- CTRL X will cut text so that it’s deleted from the original location, and paste it in a new location once you hit CTRL V.
- CTRL F will open a search box. This shortcut alone has saved me hours of time searching on the web. For example, I’m searching for how to do something online, and I come across a blog post. While I appreciate the author’s attempt to inform me on lots of content, I only have time for the one skill I’m in search of. I click CTRL F, type in my keywords, and then the search box will find those words throughout the page. I can use the arrows in the search box to jump from result to result quickly. CTRL F is an incredible time-saver, allowing you to find exactly what you need quickly.
- CTRL P will allow you to print. And while printing can be handy in some situations, I use this shortcut the most for saving to Google Drive. Just change the destination from your printer to “Save to Google Drive.” This is super handy when trying to keep track of webpage content, for example, an order confirmation, receipt, etc.
TIP #4: Turn Gmail Into a Time-Saving Virtual Assistant
No matter the position, email is a huge part of what we do. If we can save bits of time whenever we email, this time can add up real quick.
One of my favorite, newer features of Gmail is the “Schedule Send” feature. You find this feature by clicking on the little sharktooth triangle next to “Send,” at the bottom of the compose window, and then choose the date and time you’d like your email to be sent.
This feature allows teachers to respond to an email whenever they read them, say 9pm at night, but not have the email go out until 8am the next day (or whatever date and time you choose). This helps teachers avoid setting the expectation that they are going to respond to emails all day and night.
TIP #5: Slash Grading Time in Half with Google Classroom
Google Classroom has come a long way since I was in the classroom. But I actually use Classroom as much as ever running our online courses. It is such a powerful tool, and Google is adding new features all the time. Because of its increasing capability, I’m sure if you asked your colleagues about their Google Classroom workflow, you’d find that we all are unique.
When grading in Classroom, I always add a private comment, for every student, in every assignment. And while some assignments require unique comments for each student, others allow for me to repeat comments. The comment bank in Google Classroom’s grading tool (read more here) is super helpful, but I have found that sometimes even just 3-4 clicks to insert a comment can add up, especially when working with many students. This leads me to my time-saving Google Classroom tip: send a private comment to multiple students at once. Here’s my flow for this:
- I go through the students’ assignments in Classroom’s grading tool, one by one. If the student requires a unique comment, then I grade, comment, and return that student’s work from the assignment tool area.
- For the students that meet the expectations for an assignment, I only enter their grade on this assignment page, no comment, yet.
- Once I’ve gone through all student work, returning all assignments that required unique comments, I then head back to the Assignment student work page – the page where you can see all of the students’ assignments in one place – with the list of who has turned in, who’s still missing, and which have been graded. This is where the time-saving magic happens!
- With one-click, I select all of the turned-in assignments (that all have drafted grades from my work in the assignment tool), and then hit “Return.” At the bottom of this pop-up box is an option for a private comment. I type the positive feedback, then click return, and Google repeats this private comment for each student AND returns all assignments…in one click!
At the end of the day, we only have so much time in a day, so why not free up as much as possible to spend it on what we love? In education, it can be extremely difficult to free up an entire day, afternoon, or even an hour of time. We have to be time scavengers, claiming minutes along the way, and if we’re deliberate, these minutes will add up to hours.
These 5 tips have been true game-changers for me, as a teacher and a trainer. Which will you try first? I’d love to hear how these tips work out for you. And please, share other time-saving tips you might have by commenting below!
As Director of Education Partnerships at EdTechTeam, Christina brings a passion for rethinking education to ensure experiences are learner-centered, with a focus on developing the capacity of others to lead and implement transformational work. Christina has worked in various roles in elementary, middle, and high school environments, as Associate Director of the Institute for Personalized Learning, and as a Manager of Partnerships at Discovery Education. She uses her experience as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, principal, and professional development specialist to understand the challenges districts face, and partners with them to create a design that works toward the district’s vision and goals. From Design Thinking to STEM to apprenticeship experiences, Christina is always looking for ways to further empower educators and engage learners in real-life experiences that impact their future.