GUEST POST BY SAM COLLINS @samschoolstuff
Wellbeing: we all know what we should be doing. Any of us could reel off the fundamentals. Watch what we eat and drink. Get some exercise. Get some sleep. Balance the demands of work and home. So why is it so difficult to do?
Workload is often cited as the main difficulty for teachers in maintaining this balance. It’s a classic case of so much to do, so little time to do it in.
So is it possible to do less, but achieve more? An entire industry has grown up around this idea (See the work of Greg McKeown, Gary Keller and Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, for a start) but at first glance it can be difficult to see how to apply these to teaching. They tend to imply a level of autonomy over workload that most teachers would find unrecognisable. Most of us simply have very little choice over which tasks we are required to do to fulfil our job description. The principle of focusing your attention on those activities that really make a difference though, is one that can teachers can embrace and learn from. Cutting out activities that take your focus away from key tasks really can help you to get more done in less time.
Here are three quick ideas for tweaking your working day that might help you be a little less busy, a little more productive.
How much time do you spend doing things over, or doing them in more detail than is necessary?
I’m afraid there’s no easy way to say this. You’re going to have to loosen up a bit. Everyone loves a beautiful display, but isn’t it worth compromising to spend more time with your family and less with the laminator?
Stop being so available
Are school emails popping up on your phone? Are you jumping every time it goes off?
And are you checking when it doesn't just in case you missed something?
Remove work emails from your personal phone. If you can't do that, turn off notifications. A recent study by Nottingham Trent University found that people were checking their phones an astonishing 85 times a day, Not only does this take up a lot of time, it also distracts you from the task you were working on, making you less effective. Check your emails when you have time to deal with them.
Do you tend to worry about work when you’re not actually really working? Does a little voice pop into your head when you are having tea or walking the dog and say “ I need to do A, B and C tomorrow morning. And D and E at lunchtime”? Thinking about work when you’re not working is normal, and can generate some brilliant ideas. The almost certainly apocryphal story of Archimedes in his bath has persisted for a reason, because when your brain is able to wander around a bit, it often does it’s best work. But, ruminating, worrying, and generally getting yourself in a tizz are not productive and they really eat into your down time.
Get in the habit of writing down any things like this that come into your head. This frees up your head to think more creatively and to actually think about what you are doing now, rather than what you need to do tomorrow morning. The 'to do' list running around your head is always shorter when written down.
Do something that forces you to focus, perhaps a sport, a craft or a social activity that demands your attention and gives you a break from the mental chatter.
Want more ideas?
If the idea of achieving more by doing less appeals to you, I suggest you start with Greg McKeown’s Essentialism. What I’ve laid out here are a few quick ideas that I hope might be of value, but if you want to take this approach and run with it, you need to make a fundamental review of what you do and why you’re doing it.
Guest Author - Sam Collins
Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.