At the moment, I am working on our school’s teaching and learning magazine. I decided to write an article which contains lots of tips on how to improve work-life balance. Here are the top tips along with some further thoughts:
First of all, the tips I can honestly say I follow:
1) “Does your lesson really need a PowerPoint with magnificent transitions or a complicated smartboard presentation? If not then leave it.”
I do this more and more nowadays. I make slides that I might need such as sentence starts or interactive quizzes etc but I’ve stopped typing up objectives, outcomes and things I will be saying in class.
2) “You can’t always say yes. If you have to say no to an extra project then do so.”
I am doing this increasingly too. However, I still tend to set up lots of things (e.g. this blog) which take time. I see this as time well spent and actually quite enjoyable. Those tasks which have a whiff of ‘delegate because I can’t be bothered doing it myself’ get a firm no!
3) “Ask for help. If work is getting on top of you, then discuss it with your line manager or a supportive colleague. Then tackle the real issues head on.”
It’s quite hard when you move into a leadership position to say that you are struggling. I have led training on behaviour management and then if I find that I have a challenging class it can be difficult to admit it. When you do, and you access the support that others can give, it is a no brainer really. I know that there are people I work with who can help me and it is ridiculous to let pride get in the way of that.
4) “Plan with colleagues. It saves on workload and is much more fun than doing it alone.”
I love this part of my job. I love sharing ideas and learning from others and when done well it can also save so much time. This week, we combined the English and Art departments to share ideas on teaching Expressive Arts. It was great sharing ideas and my planning load is now much much smaller.
5) “Take advantage of the web. Sites like Twitter, Pinterest, Scoop.it and The TES are full of resources and teachers sharing them. Start there before you spend hours creating things.”
Twitter has saved me so much time and the resources/ideas I get are amazing. I can usually find an appropriate resource or lesson idea just from a quick search on the web or a glance at #ukedchat, #edchat or #engchat.
6) “Put in extra effort to save time later. For example, phone a parent after the first poor lesson for a quick call and not 3 weeks later for a time and energy sapping discussion.”
Sometimes you do have to put in time to save time. Lack of preparation or intervention can lead to much bigger issues to deal with further down the line. The example given was about phonecalls home but it is more than just that. Like putting off a conversation with a colleague that has to happen and will at some point in the future. You need to take the time now to stop things from coming to a head much later.
7) “Good enough is good enough. Does it matter if things are not perfect every single time?”
I can’t plan detailed, outstanding lessons day in day out, mark books, attend meetings and have any kind of a social life without compromising somewhere. So I make sure that my lessons are pretty good and I throw in some great ones at regular intervals.
8) “Get organised: Make lists. Keep your desk tidy. Plan your week. Repeat.”
I used to be very badly organised. On so many occasions, someone would remind me of a meeting I had missed or a task I had not done. I started making lists and wrote down everything. I check my lists regularly and cross items off. However, my desk is a disgrace.
And the tips I have yet to get to grips with:
9) “Decide what time you are going home and stick to it. If you really have to work at home, work to a time limit.”
I am rubbish at this. I am writing this sentence at 9.21 on Thursday evening before we break up.
10) “Plan the non-work things first. Make appointments and stick to them. You need hobbies, interests and friends outside of school.”
I must confess that I haven’t got this the right way round yet. Writing the article has made me realise how many commitments I have broken because of work. This has to be the big change I make in 2013.