Time management – or How to Become More Organised
There are so many new elements to becoming a teacher. When you envisaged your new responsibility how many of you thought beyond planning and delivering lessons?
Suddenly your whole life revolves around bells and your day is divided into hourly slots.
You are expected to be present at meetings, reflective during observations, inspirational during lesson delivery and creative during lesson planning!
Alongside this, you need to mark work, write assignments, evaluate lessons and gather evidence for your portfolios!
Some of you may find this water off a duck’s back; but some of you may be the proverbial swan – gliding on the surface, but frantically paddling for survival under the water.
If you fit into the latter category, you need to develop a new skill which you may not have considered as being as important as all the others you are learning – how to be organised.
Although written with the trainee in mind - these tips are for all busy teachers!
When I first started teaching, I remember someone coming in to deliver a session on time management. He gave me probably the two most important tips of my career. And I still use them to this day.
1. Plan horizontally
You will probably be adding to this list several times each day, making it longer and longer! As more things are added, you may find you can't complete some of the smaller items - and you may miss deadlines or forget to go somewhere important!
Motivationally and emotionally this is not a good place to be. You need to manage your lists so that you are not constantly feeling like you are failing to achieve!
This is where the horizontal planning comes in.
There are many ways to do this, and you need to find your own style, but I will explain the ethos behind horizontal planning and you can take it from there.
Firstly you need to be able to prioritise each task, which you can only do by noting deadlines.
Look at the example below which has taken the original list and added two additional columns.
One of my colleagues used to write her list on an A4 page which she had divided into days of the week.
This was not just for the deadlines but more importantly for the tasks themselves. See the example below.
In red are those personal arrangements you have that stop you being able to work on certain evenings. So in the example below, anything needed to be completed by Wednesday will need to be done on Monday! This will help you maintain a work-life balance for most of the time.
The blue comments are those which remind you when you have longer periods to work – Wednesday looks like a good day for getting meaty tasks done. (Although be prepared for other things to crop up so don’t leave things to the last minute!)
In the example, Thursday is not a good day to complete tasks – so accept that and don’t fret about what you can't do!
Once you have plotted your week, you can then add when you will do certain tasks on your list. As each task arises, put it into the diary on a day when you are more likely to be able to achieve it!
If you find you have no time in a given week - see if you can negotiate completing the task the following week instead.
Read on for 2 - Only carry what you can do!
2. Only carry what you can do!
Those of you who have lots of marking to do each night, will no doubt be carrying bags of books home on a regular basis – and bringing them all back again the next day. How many of them did you actually mark?
Why set yourself up to fail – it feels horrible! If you know you will only mark 10 books in an evening – only take 10 home. The sense of achievement is a much better feeling to go to bed with! If the task the students did was an extended writing task, you may only manage 3 – then only take 3 home. If it is a quick mark, then take the set home.
Although this sounds like common sense, you will be amazed how our minds play tricks on us – ‘well I have to get these marked, so I will take them all home with me!’ Fine if this is achievable. Occasionally you may find you have to stay up really late to mark books, but this is not how it should be, and you will need to find ways through this.
I will be posting a blog later on marking and feedback, which will include managing your marking load through a Mapping Marking activity.
Those of you reading this who are trainees won't be marking large amounts at the moment, so I will save this gem - but if you want some advice in the meantime, please contact me.
Dr Sharon Williams