So the new school year is now in motion and it is typically busy. New staff have come with different experiences of time management at various stages in their career. I am impressed most, though, with the methods of an older colleague who seemingly just ‘remembers’ to do everything.
This colleague is perpetually reliable. Her classroom is tidy and she organises trips both international and domestic with aplomb. Her lessons are reasoned and her marking thorough. Her secret? She just does it.
I am not so blessed. I absolutely need to have systems in place to get things done. Right now for example I have 33 tasks waiting for me in my inbox of various levels of urgency and importance. A few things I can do right now (administration for Debate Club). A few are slightly longer (create an EdPuzzle of my descriptive writing lecture). Some are very important for the future (booking a holiday for my mother; investigating my finances and my investments). Some are important, but only for the here and now (completing some displays for a scheduled upcoming school inspection).
For many years I have not felt the stress of overwhelming tasks because I feel able and happy to book these tasks an allocated time. Chris Sharples’ idea that time management is about doing tasks at the RIGHT time is key: once these tasks have their specified time, they no longer take unnecessary mindspace.
So here’s my rough approach:
- Instantly complete tasks that take a few minutes. One is that I play a competitive online game (usually chess) to see how my mind is working – that’s about 15 minutes, but still brief and worthwhile enough. Another is the browse TeamEnglish on Twitter whereby I sourced a knowledge organiser for 1984 which was sent to a sixth form colleague.
I then ticked off some daily reminds ‘debate daily prep…’ ‘shopping’. I pushed back a routine task of giving patpoints to Sunday.
- Now I had some items that I cannot do immediately: completing displays for inspection for one (just some borders…) and show my renewed visa to my banks. I scheduled these in, and then pushed back the to-do list to either that day, or the day afterwards. Again, these should just require a quick tick.
- Now I want to confirm our entry into a national debate competition. Two days in November (the other two are at the weekend). I email an important email to our advanced debaters about framing, and give our head debate captain a video from Manchester University Student Union to disseminate.
- Now here is the crux…. I have some important tasks that often get pushed to the side, namely reading some wider texts and working out. When I have a huge number of tasks that are taking up my space (22 at this stage), should these ‘go’? My response is to begin to combine some tasks, namely the EdPuzzles and descriptive writing. Another combination is to put together marking requirements (Year 10, 11, 12).
- I pulled some work together (namely with marking and sending an email regarding folder checks for Year 12). The number of tasks is down to 10.
- Of these tasks now we have some which are especially important: consider my investments, holidays and future plans (MA, family etc). I also need to continue to plan an apology for gaming culture which will be delivered to several hundred students and staff next week. Less interesting, but still important, is the planning of homework timetables in advance… doing so, for Year 11, makes me realise that sharing an essay written already is a good idea, so that forms another task. I also realise that a Teaching and Learning Post has come up, and I deleted this task before, so I found this and am resolved to complete that today/tomorrow.
- Doing all this has taken about 30 minutes. I am down, now, to a more manageable 7 tasks.
- I practiced my lecture/apology for gaming culture for about 20-30 minutes, recording this so I might listen back and make adjustments. 6 Tasks.
- I wrote an application for a T&L approach. Having a structure and examples already, this took about 20 minutes with an eye on revising it later. 5 tasks.
- All that remains, now, are some requirements to mark (!), exercise and consider my investments. Of these, considering my investments is important, and this will be my focus for today.
So, in this management of time I do not feel that I have unduly affected my day. My mind is clear and I am ready to enjoy the day ahead. I still have some arduous work, but it is scheduled so it does not need concern me now.
My advice? Practice, use Wunderlist and the principles elsewhere in this blog.