Managing your time

Successful teachers learn to say “no” in a positive way and limit their commitments, so that they can focus on their priorities.

For many, balancing home and work will prove a problem from time to time.

Discuss this with your line manager or another colleague. It is in your organisation’s interest to help you find ways to manage your workload, rather than let it get out of control.

If you have a project to work on, start well in advance and plan your approach. Be realistic and spread the required work over some weeks.

Plan your breaks and stick to the objective during work time. Do not drift into the depths of Google.

If you are struggling to find a time and place where you won’t be interrupted, put a ‘Do not Disturb’ sign on the door.

Organise your paperwork

Owner of Organised Spaces, Samantha Bickerton, used to be a teacher in Further Education and Higher Education and still tutors today. She is naturally very organised but still found it challenging to keep on top of everything as a teacher.

She found colour coding helpful: “Colour code your storage to find things more quickly, e.g. by subject, theme, year group, or level, etc. Consider a range of colours when choosing storage or use large coloured stickers for existing storage.”

Lever-arch and box files can also be helpful to separate different resource types. It helps to use shelving with adjustable shelves to accommodate different storage solutions.

The folders themselves should also be organised: “It is quicker to find paperwork organised in smaller sections than to rummage through large boxes. Organise resourcse into lever-arch files labelled alphabetically. Inside the folders, use coloured dividers to divide alphabetically and use stamped polypockers to hold resources with a sticker identifying the theme.”

Put time in your diary each day (or if this isn’t feasible, each week) to move paperwork from your ‘to file’ folder into the relevant place in your filing system.

On the computer, use folders to organise work in the same way – by year group, subject, theme, etc. Include the date in the file name so they’re easier to find.

All of this can be terribly addictive, so it’s important to focus on the end goal and prioritise function over aesthetics. “Functional is a good starting point and can change your life, regardless of how it looks,” says Bickerton.

Separate home & work

It’s important to have time away from the stresses of work. The break will clear your head, give you perspective and make you more productive during the workday.

Keep confidential papers and marking at work if at all possible – just don’t take them home. If you must do so, define how long you will spend on it, where you will work and when you will stop – and stick to these limits. Make sure you give yourself time to wind down before bed.

Get enough rest

Everybody copes better with stress if they have had enough sleep. As well as winding down an hour or two before bed, make your bedroom a nice place to retreat to and ban any paperwork or digital devices.

If you’re struggling to clear your mind, try planning every day in advance with a list. You can tick things off the next day (increasing your own sense of achievement), and it will ease your worry that you will forget something.

Rachel Papworth, owner of decluttering company Green and Tidy says “If you use a personal laptop for work, set up a separate user profile. This reduces the risk that you’ll inadvertently show something personal to colleagues or students.

“Also, check your social media settings and make sure your pages are set to private. You can be sure that older students will check you out online.”

During the day, plan and take regular breaks. Make a sandwich and cup of tea every day at lunchtime and tell students they can only speak to you after this time.

Your holidays are not just a time to do everything that you haven’t been able to fit in during term time. Papworth says: “Plan your holidays in the same way you plan your work schedule: be realistic about how much you can fit in.” Rest and recuperation should also be included.

You’ll be back at work before you know it.

Time savers

Look out for little tricks during the day that will save you time, stress and energy. Invest in a cleaner, or ask members of the family to help out with household chores so you’re not worrying about fitting them in.

Filling a slow cooker in the morning will make evening meals much easier, and try not to put off tidying up jobs that will take a few minutes in the evening as you watch TV.

Being organised will help enormously. Keep anything important on a USB drive that you can always have on you.

Download and print a PDF of this Life Guide below.