This issue we explore some of the time management methods that might usefully support school staff in freeing up space for professional and personal learningpdf-7335628

CPD Week Info Sheet – Time management.pdf

Time is like money; the less we have of it to spare, the further we make it go.
Josh Billings

Poverty of time is such a common complaint of teachers and other school staff that it has become synonymous with working in education. But is that a healthy attitude to expose children and young people to, and does it really need to be that way? 

Making time
The simple fact of life is that we cannot add more hours to each day. The time we have is the time we have. If the tasks we have to complete don’t comfortably fit into the time available, we must take action: either we reduce the demands on our time, or we change our use of time to improve efficiency and effectiveness. It really is that simple!

Effective and efficient use of time is particularly essential in schools. Teaching and learning aside, the expectations for staff to devote time to personal and professional development means that we really are ‘using time twice’ throughout every working day.

To bring this out into the general consciousness in your school, these ideas will help:

  • The most basic ideas are usually the most enduring and that certainly goes for all the tried and trusted time management golden rules: know what needs to be done; know when it needs to be done by; prioritise and review priorities throughout the task. Simple!
  • Be time-aware. This means exploring your current use of time. When are you leaking time? When is it being hijacked? When is it being stolen? When can you reclaim it? Keeping a time log is useful, but only if you are absolutely honest about exactly what you do with each minute of the day. This kind of exercise is invariably enlightening.
  • Analyse your use of time – how effective are you when you are on task? How easily distracted are you?
  • When you have much to do and little time to do it in, consider spending less time working. Deliberately restricting the time you allow a task to take can improve efficiency. The skill is in knowing the difference between enhancing efficiency and introducing negative stress. Only you can determine where that line lies for you.
  • Aim to understand how procrastination works for you. Sometimes it is simply a way of avoiding a difficult or tedious task, whereas at other times it is a way of creating the situation or pressure you need to get a job done. If you’re in control of procrastination, you can use it to serve you well. If procrastination is in charge of you, then steps have to be taken to regain control.

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg and are designed to help us to be more time-aware, and not to take our time-use skills for granted. Choosing to explore how we use time is a great basis for personal and professional learning, both of which rely on us having the mental space to work with the professional learning mindset. The simple truth is: the more cluttered we are with the pressures of time, the less able we are to acknowledge and seek out professional learning. With that in mind, it’s clear that time management might usefully lie at the heart of all efforts to promote professional learning in schools.

Find out more…
This info sheet offers a structure for keeping a time log and suggests ways of analysing it to derive self-learning and to free up time.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in December 2009

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.