Here is a lesson I learned the hard way, which I present as a tip for newer faculty:
It pays to plan out your due dates for the entire term in advance. Spread the due dates around, so that that assignments from different classes come in at different times. Try to avoid having major assignments come it all at once.
I finally figured this out about two years ago (I am not that bright), and I have been conscious of it every term since. The “day to balance things” has become a regular part of my pre-term planning process. I just finished the plan for this term, and here it is, as a convenient Google Doc. I haven’t ever done it quite so formally as this table, but it feels natural now.
Note that I also have a column dedicated to what weekend commitments I have. That way, I can try to avoid having bad work vs family conflicts. This term, I have a weekend where my in-laws will visit, the Iowa Section of the MAA meeting to attend, and seven different travel days for my daughter’s soccer commitments. I don’t want a situation where I have a big stack of work to do when I have to drive the whole family to St Louis for the weekend to watch soccer games.
Of course, nothing is ever perfect. On September 22 I am collecting something big from two of my three courses right as family shows up. Sigh.
I am NOT worried about the big collection right before Thanksgiving. I get a whole week off, but my kids go to school on the next Monday and Tuesday. That means I have a few days of quiet office time.
If everything goes according to plan, I should be able to keep up with my grading work during the regular business day and still return papers either the next class meeting or the one after.