“The trouble is, you think you have time”.
Who said that? Buddha. He was a wise guy.
I started this blog back in half-term. I was well rested, it was halfway through the week, I was looking for some other things to do. I had all the time in the world to write in an eloquent way, think big thoughts, all whilst watching a slightly unhealthy amount of TV and avoiding the pile of marking I’d brought home with me. Fast forward to now, not even two weeks back into school, and my responsibilities have hit me like a TRAIN.
Despite feeling like this, though, I do value my skills in time management highly. Deadlines are always met, other responsibilities are carried out to a high standard, and I still have time for a social life and relaxation. Factoring a blog into my schedule as well is going to take some manoeuvering, but I’ll get there. People that are close to me often ask me how I do it, and I always joke that I stole Hermione Granger’s time turner (3 blog posts in and I’ve outed myself as a massive Harry Potter nerd, nice). But actually I’ve always found managing time quite easy, so I thought I’d share some tips in case anybody else out there is struggling a little bit.
Something that has revolutionalised the way I manage my time over the past couple of years is investing in a decent notebook. It sounds trivial, but it makes all the difference. You might have seen a relatively new craze starting to appear – Bullet Journalling. It’s a way of essentially keeping a diary but puts emphasis on self-reflection each day, week, month, year, etc..
You start each day with writing a list of the events and tasks that you have to do, and making notes about the thoughts that come into your head. At the end of the day you review that you did and didn’t achieve, and reflect on the tasks that you didn’t complete. Those tasks make the starting point for the next day, but if you get to a point where a task keeps rolling over, it forces you to really think about the relevance of the task and if it’s a priority in this moment in time. You do the same thing each week and each month, reviewing the things you did and didn’t do, and it really helps you to focus on what’s important! I always make sure I factor in time to relax and do the things that I really love to do. It’s an amazing system to get into a habit of and I probably haven’t done it justice, you can find more information here
The only notebook I would ever recommend from now on is a Leuchtturm1917 in A5. They are the most elegant, high quality notebooks I’ve ever come across – and they aren’t crazily expensive. You can get them ruled/squared/dotted but I go for dotted because it helps keep my tasks and thoughts minimalistic. Some people are super creative and their notebooks are works of art on every page, but yours doesn’t have to be and mine certainly isn’t! Buy from Amazon – 10/10 would definitely buy again.
Over the years I’ve become quite good at prioritising and considering what is important to me, but when I first vaguely started out in adulthood I tried various different techniques to help me prioritise my tasks. One thing that is definitely underrated is a good old prioritisation grid.
You spend 5-10 minutes writing a list of EVERYTHING you think you have to do at the moment, even if you think it’s insignificant like cooking the dinner tonight or doing the ironing. Then you spend a little while reflecting on how important/urgent the tasks are and put them in the appropriate grid square. Then when it comes to starting a to-do list (or an action plan), you start with high importance-high urgency, and finish with low importance-low urgency. It’s a really good way to actually reflect on what’s going on in your life at the moment. Certainly in my case I realise that what I feel like I’m stressing about isn’t really that important at all, and that it can wait for a couple of weeks before I think about it again.
The hardest thing I’ve had to learn over the past couple of years, particularly when starting teaching, was just to let some things go. I’ve found that it’s quite unhealthy to be firing on all cylinders all the time with so many things to juggle. I had to resign myself to the fact that IT WAS OKAY to start dropping smaller things and not getting them completed exactly when I wanted them to. I thought smarter about whether what I was doing was actually going to increase the learning experienced by students, and I tried to worry less about a set of books taking a day or two longer to mark than usual.
There are so many other gimmicks that you can use to help manage your time effectively but honestly, most people should probably just start with the basics and think about what is important to them. Whatever the ways you use to manage your time, teachers should never be afraid to ask for help.