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Keep your work and life in balance

Advice for teachers in their early career

This half-term is the hardest in the school year. If you want to survive until Christmas, you need to get into the habit of using your time well.

Certainly, a good work-life balance is essential for keeping teachers in the profession.

Perhaps you're already ruthlessly efficient in this area, but most people feel they have too much to do in too little time - indeed, that's one of the main reasons people give for leaving teaching.

Do you know how you spend your time? Draw up a table for one week to establish how much time you spend working at school, working at home, travelling, on domestic chores, sleeping and yourself - "me-time". This should give you a feel for whether you have your work-life balance right or not.

"Me time" should include anything that makes you feel better, such as socialising, exercise, watching a favourite television programme, reading, soaking in the bath, chatting to someone you like. Under "domestic" jot down everyday living activities such as cooking, shopping, tidying, washing, cleaning, talking to people at home, and eating.

Now work out whether all your allocated time adds up roughly to 24 hours.

If it's under, you may find that your time just seems to disappear. This can be pleasant if you're on holiday, but hours that just vanish can be dangerous - there's a lot to do and you can't afford to fall behind.

What are you doing too little of? If you don't get enough sleep, a noisy class can be unbearable, so keep an eye on that one. Can you reduce your travelling time by, say, avoiding rush-hour? Could you mark work while travelling, or do some "me time" reading, or even have a nap?

How long are you working at home, and how long at school? If it all adds up to about 52 hours a week, then you are pretty much typical of teachers nationwide. Many new teachers work more than 52 hours a week, and often it's well into the 60s and 70s.

This is simply crazy - because it means you have not yet cracked the work-life balance. And you are going to have to do something about it.

Sara Bubb's The Insider's Guide for New Teachers is published by TESKogan Page (pound;12.99) See www.tes.co.ukbookshop

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