Time management

27th January 2006 at 00:00
It's Sunday afternoon, and the gloom is beginning to settle around you like November fog; you have 64 pieces of coursework to mark and five lessons to prepare for Monday, and you don't want to give up the rest of your weekend.

You'd like, just for once, to spend some time with your nearest and dearest, who aren't seeing enough of you.

It needn't be like this and when you sort out your time management, it won't be. The initial effort will be worthwhile.

Begin by being clear about the shape and rhythm of the year. Use your school calendar and transfer important dates to your diary or planner.

Identify the times when you're going to be really busy. Flag parents'

evenings, open days, coursework deadlines, exam marking. If you can do this electronically, so much the better. The computer will tell you what's coming up.

Change your habits

Come to school a little earlier, grab a coffee and empty your pigeonhole.

Sort the contents into piles - to do today, to do this week, to go into the bin. Transfer the "to do this week" information to your diary. Make a separate list of "things to do today", and set a time limit for each task.

Don't plan for every minute of the day, leave time for the unexpected.

Enjoy ticking off each task as you complete it.

Use your time at the end of the day effectively. Before you leave, clean your whiteboard and write tomorrow's date. If you've worked out learning objectives for your first lesson, put those up. Lay out materials and resources you'll need and you'll find the queue for the photocopier much shorter at 3.40pm than at 8.40am. Do quick tasks that will only take a couple of minutes now.

Paperwork can waste more time than anything else, so keep a clear desk.

Have trays or folders for short-term tasks and don't let piles accumulate.

Set a time and make it a daily routine. Have separate folders in your filing cabinet for different kinds of resources, handbooks and pastoral information. Finish record-keeping tasks on the day.


List all your tasks before you try to order them. You need the overview to make effective decisions. Distinguish between urgent, short-term tasks, like a deadline for producing teacher assessments, and important tasks, like finishing the writing of a scheme of work.

Use ICT intelligently

Organise your hard drive in a way that matches your filing cabinet. Use Copernic or Google Desktop to speed up searches. Deal with email at the same time every day, but if you have an important, time-sensitive task, leave emails until you've done it as they will distract you. Use a spreadsheet for record-keeping. You should be able to retrieve set lists from your school's information management system - saves a lot of typing.

Be smart about marking. Your pupils are entitled to frequent and regular feedback, but that doesn't mean you have to mark everything. Create oral, peer and self-assessment opportunities. Work out which tasks are best done at which times of the day.

Ring-fence time for yourself. Keep your weekends clear and set a time in the evening after which you do no more school work.

* Don't waste non-contact time with gossip and chat.

* Remember Parkinson's law: "work expands to fill the time available", so shorten deadlines.

* "Chunk" big tasks. Little and often is less painful.

* Learn to say "No".

* Never rely on a non-contact period for a time-crucial task - you're bound to lose it.

* Be appropriately perfectionist - letters to parents and coursework marking have to be spot on, but a memo to a colleague needn't have the same high production values.

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