No time-wasters, please

13th February 2015 at 00:00

I used to think of procrastination as delayed gratification, rather than self-sabotage. But the more skilled I become at it, the more I see it as an enemy force. In simpler, analogue times, I would eat an enormous bowl of cornflakes or have a go at my hob with a Brillo pad in order to suspend completion of the thing that was weighing heavily on my shoulders.

Now, the internet has turned the casual procrastinator into a master. Take this column. Instead of just opening a document and writing it, I have bought a special cover for my heated clothes airer, lost half an hour looking at then-and-now pictures of the cast of Dynasty and taken a quiz to determine my Ikea spirit name. I shall henceforth be known as Kungsmynta.

It's not because of a lack of interest in the task. I love writing, as much as I love planning sessions for my students, creating resources and knowing that even if my class doesn't run smoothly, I have put the effort in.

But I am not an organised teacher and this is becoming a problem. I have taught the same subject for six years. I should have banks of perfectly filed and resourced sessions, covered in notes reflecting on their practical application and effectiveness. I do have mountains of all those things but they are muddled, filed on my work computer, my own laptop and on bits of paper in various locations.

What is stopping me making the simple changes that would alleviate stress? It's the lie that many of us tell ourselves: "I just don't have enough time."

Let's be honest, I do have the time and you probably do, too. Look at the most efficient, most productive person you know. They have the same amount of time that you and I have, they just use it better. Think back to those days in the holidays when you grudgingly sloped into the student-less college. Did you spend every hour on state-of-the-art resource creation after extensive pedagogical and vocational research? Were you relentlessly laying the groundwork to glide effortlessly through the academic year? Me neither.

Or did you have long chats with your colleagues about something other than education? Did you comment on your mate's holiday photos on Facebook? Did your hunt for books on Amazon accidentally lead you to new shoes? Me too.

No one denies that teachers work hard. Many of us also put an extraordinary amount of effort into moaning about our workloads without analysing how we use our time.

Other people have difficult jobs without the intrinsic rewards of teaching. We get double the holidays of most and more pay than many.

I have the same confidence crisis every year. I know that being more organised and thus leaving more time to read, learn and (God forbid) relax will solve it. I think it was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I would like to confirm that, but worry that if I search "Einstein quotes" I'll get sucked into a time-wasting vortex.

Sarah Simons works in FE colleges in the East Midlands.



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