How much time do you need?

Yes, that’s right; How much time do you need?  Not how much time do you want or think you should have but how much time do you actually need?

I often hear colleagues talking about not having enough time to get the job done.  I’m guilty too!  Moan, nag, blah, blah…I have to do this…and they want me to do that…and…and… blaaaaah.   How many little jobs  could I have completed in the time it took me to stop and complain about a lack of time?

As I was saying… how much time do you need?  My time management skills need improving but I realise that I need a good work/life balance too.  Sometimes I think about what I do on a regular basis and how to best plan my time.  As a consequence, I can get bogged down…

  • attend one or two meetings of some description
  • conduct lesson observations
  • give feedback
  • mentor NQT’s
  • coach colleagues
  • ‘facilitate’ network nights
  • lead CPD
  • do a bit of shared planning
  • teach Mathematics
  • run workshops with fellow SLE’s (Specialist Leaders of Education)
  • work with students in the Maths Support Club after school
  • ‘chat’ with students in the corridors during break , lunch and after school (a very important part of my job!)
  • research and read up on Teaching &Learning literature as part of my role as a Lead Practitioner
  • and the usual bits and pieces that every teacher does

Once I’ve completed majority of the aforementioned tasks, it’s usually time to relax; have some dinner, maybe watch some escapist nonsense on the television.

So what’s the solution?  Get better at saying no?  Stop making lists that never get completed?  Don’t check emails?  This is not really feasible.  I don’t have the solution but here are a few ideas that might help you along the way.

Self Help Books; Get suggestions from colleagues, as you will find that quite a few of these publications are filled with what some would call “common sense”.  I recommend “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.

Non-Contact Time;  If you have a heavy teaching timetable, use your non-contact time efficiently.  Book a meeting with yourself!  Make sure the meeting title states what you need to in that time (e.g. Write Y10 reports; observe PGCE student).  I know it seems obvious – “efficiently” I say.  I know that I could could cut down on the staffroom visits, general procrastination – you know what I mean.

Lunch time;  Fortunate enough to have a 40, 50 or even 60 minutes lunch break?  I would question whether you need the entire lunch break to socialise and eat your lunch (Okay, so I’m being harsh.  Some people need the entire lunch break).  If you are really short for time, why not use half of this time to prepare resources, write some praise postcards or even mark a few books.

Before or After school; You don’t have any meetings booked and there’s no CPD tonight.  Come in a little earlier or stay a little later (do not do both) so that you can schedule a bit of lesson planning, marking or simply read that thing that you have to read!

Other Peoples Time; Members of SLT, Heads of Department and individuals in similar positions have the luxury of delegating tasks if they so choose.  I would like to think that I can call on colleagues to help me out if I’m really struggling, however, I’m still pondering sideways and upward delegation…not sure how I feel about this.

At Home?!  Remember your Work/Life balance and the fact that you need to charge your batteries.  Let’s be realistic, all teachers work from home at some point in their career, on a regular basis and most likely every week or weekend.  If you have young children wait until they are in bed before you do any last minute work.  Don’t have kids?  Go out with friends or get a hobby (next term, I will take my own advice!)

Well, it seems as if I have actually taken my own advice and have found a new hobby.  Although I am old school, I still feel new to teaching and this is my first journey into/onto the “blogosphere”….this is the problem with being a Maths teacher; Sphere? I’m starting to think about round things and circles and that time I went to a Chinese restaurant where I had a square Nasi-Goreng Parcel on a circular plate and I wanted to set a question up for my students, so I…

I think I’ll save that one for another day!


  1. You address here THE perennial issue for teachers. I found, for what it may be worth, that, because we are necessarily adept at PRIORITISING instinctively in lessons, this was the key (for me) to managing anything I had to do. I’d list (often with a list of lists!) and then NUMBER in intuitive order of priority. Best wishes! Ray

    1. sporteredu says:

      Glad to hear I’m not alone in fighting the battle against making lists about lists! Thanks for reading Ray and thanks for your comments. Enjoy the New Year!

  2. Great post Sharon!

    I’m always trying to find ways to work smarter, tweaking my practice to make sure I use my time wisely. Best advice I’ve been given is to ‘not put things off, make a start now.’ The hardest part sometimes is just starting and then being able to manage several things on the go at once. An ever evolving discipline!

    1. sporteredu says:

      Yup! I totally agree with you on this ‘Do not put things off’. This is when folks start struggling; fooling themselves that they can do a job in an hour when they had a day or a week to do it. Once again, you’ve provided me with some food for thought!
      Thanks for reading and sharing this advice.

  3. mrbunkeredu says:

    I vividly remember some advice I received during my PGCE year while on a placement. I can’t remember what exactly it was I was fretting about, marking planning etc. but she simply said, ‘what will happen if you don’t do it?’ In often guilty on placing unrealistic deadlines on myself- but need to remember this maxim, and focus on the 20% that matters most! But then, this is easier said than done!

    Must think about ways to work less hours next term, thanks for reminding me!

    1. sporteredu says:

      We often set ourselves unrealistic deadlines…this is commonplace. However, like your good self, I need to “…work less hours next term” and use my time efficiently. A few early starts for me then.
      Thanks for reading.

  4. Jill Berry says:

    Thanks for this – and it’s a key issue which we all need to give thought to (and the new year – calendar or academic) is always a good point to examine how we’re spending our time. When you’re a senior leader/head it’s a double whammy because you need to think about your OWN time management and also about how you can support the staff in your school to develop their time management skills too.

    One of the things I do think we need to be aware of is just taking on more and more each year. Reading the #nurture1314 posts it struck me that many people had taken on new initiatives in 2013, which went well, they were proud of, and from which others benefited. That’s great, but… in 2014 they intended to continue with all of these AND take on more new things.

    I think we really have to think about this and sometimes go back to key principles/re-examine what our core business is and decide what NOT to do (even though we want to, we’d enjoy it and find it interesting, the kids would love it….) This is HARD!

    Good luck, Sharon – and thanks for being so practical, constructive and helpful in this post.

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