Setting goals for time and work management

The first step to creating your own workload strategy is to understand how you and your colleagues work.

UK teachers' work patterns

How do your working hours compare with the average number of hours worked by other UK teachers?

First, think about how many hours you work. Do you work before or after school? Do you work on weekends? Write down how many extra hours you work over a typical week. Compare them to the results below.

Primary

The UK Government regularly commissions workload surveys in which a sample of  teachers is invited to record how many hours they work over a typical mid-term week in March. The results from the most recent survey are shown below:

Full-time Primary Teachers in English maintained schools (Teachers’ Workload Diary Survey, 2013)

  Hours worked before or after school Weekends
Head teachers 6.5 6.2
Classroom teachers 7.7 6.4

Secondary

The UK Government regularly commissions workload surveys in which a sample of  teachers is invited to record how many hours they work over a typical mid-term week in March. The results from the most recent survey are shown below

Full-time Secondary Teachers  (Teachers’ Workload Diary Survey, 2013)

  Hours worked before or after school Weekends
Head teachers 6.7 6.9
Classroom teachers 5.8 6.2

Now that you understand UK working patterns, you need to think about your own work.

Assessing your current work pattern

Before you can make changes to your workload, you need to be clear on how you currently work. It may be that by making small changes to the way you work or by finding ways to become more efficient, you can free up time for other activities.

Try writing a diary over the next week of your activities at school, listing everything you do and how much time you spend on each thing. This may seem like more work initially, but in the long run it should help you find ways to save time.

Make sure you include every activity, even those that you may not think of as big tasks: phone calls, photocopying, impromptu meetings with colleagues etc.

You may find it useful to break your work down by structured and unstructured work time.

Structured or school directed time includes teaching time and scheduled non-teaching activities, such as PPA time, meetings, parent consultations, training, leadership and management time. These hours are often stipulated in the employment contract.

Unstructured or self-directed time includes any additional time spent on planning or assessment. This time is not normally set and is at the discretion of individual teachers and what they perceive is required of them to complete their duties.

This interesting government survey gives some good examples of activities

Once you have completed your diary, see what you have actually spent your time on. Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Are you being as efficient as you think you are?
  • Are you surprised by how long you spend on certain activities?
  • If you changed how you did something, could you save time?
  • Can you delegate any of your tasks?

In particular, look at the activities that appear to waste time.

  • Could you combine tasks to reduce time?
  • Would clearer organisational policies make things more efficient?
  • Would better communication speed things up?
  • Can you speak to colleagues, heads of department, senior management team to change the ways things are done?
  • Is there a link between your motivation and enthusiasm for tasks and the length of time it takes to complete them?

You should now be able to determine what is acceptable for you in your current situation. Ask yourself the following questions. Be honest with yourself and be realistic. There is no point saying you will not spend any additional unstructured time preparing, when you know this is not feasible.

Bearing in mind, what is expected of you, what is expected of your employer and what is reasonable for you, what are the maximum number of hours it would reasonable for you to work in term time?

  • Structured / school directed time =
  • Unstructured / self-directed time =
  • TOTAL =

Now that you have a clearer picture of how you spend your time and what is reasonable for you, you can begin to set goals for the way you work and the amount of time you work.

Prioritise your work

One key question you need to think about is what you would like to spend your time on.

In a 2013 Teacher's diary study, the tasks that deputy heads and classroom teachers said were most unnecessary / bureaucratic were :

  • paperwork / form filling / round robins
  • duplication of data/ reports/ information
  • detailed lesson plans

The same respondents said the following would most improve teaching and learning:

  • discussing work with individual pupils
  • one-to-one and small group teaching
  • collaborative planning with colleages
  • exploring and selecting resources
  • observing good practice in other schools

Look back at your diary. Before you begin to set yourself goals, think about what you want to spend more time on and what you want to spend less time on. There will always be tasks that we don’t want to do, but are there ways that you can group some of these tasks together or link them to more positive tasks when your enthusiasm and motivation levels are up?

Setting goals for work pattern and hours

Decide which of these statements describes you best:

I am working more hours than I think reasonable

So you have decided the amount of time you think it is reasonable for you to work, but how do you go about making this a reality, particularly when you might already be feeling overwhelmed by your workload?

It can be helpful to start by setting smaller goals for changes in your general work pattern than to tackle everything at once.

Look back at the diary you made of how you work. Ask yourself what patterns you might be able to change and set yourself specific goals. Make sure to write your goals in a positive way. Goals become easier to accomplish when you focus on the benefit and not the problem.

  • Set a time to finish each term night. I will finish no later than 6pm on weekdays, so that I can exercise and eat properly.
  • Set free time on weekends and / or on some weeknights. I will take two nights off during the week and have one completely free day during the week, so that I can spend time with my family.
  • Are there times when my workload is more intense than others? I will reduce the amount of unstructured or self-directed time I work, when my structured or school-directed time increases, so that my time is balanced out.
  • Change where I work. I will work an extra hour at school where I am not interrupted, then not take work home with me, so that I can relax.
  • Are there goals I would like to set during the year? I will make sure I get 8 hours sleep during reports time. I will make sure I eat a proper breakfast when rehearsing the nativity play, so that I remain focussed.
  • Schedule time for routine tasks. I will set a time a week to make all the calls I need to make or to do all the photocopying I need, so that I can be more efficient.
  • Are there goals I need to set for my career or to keep myself motivated? Are there are activities that I am not doing that might help my career or me to teach better?
  • Look for time saving opportunities. How can I reduce the amount of time I spend on planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) by 25% and maintain my teaching standards?

I am already working a reasonable number of hours

If you think your workload is already reasonable, you may want to think about how you manage the intensity of your workload during the terms.

Look back at the diary you made of how you work. Ask yourself what patterns you might be able to change and set yourself some realistic goals.

  • Are there times when my workload is more intense than others? I will reduce the amount of unstructured or self-directed time I work, when my structured or school-directed time increases, so that my time is balanced out.
  • Is there anything I can do to manage the intensity? I will start the task earlier. I will spread the task over a longer period, so that I can reduce the intensity.
  • I will make sure I have all the resources I need ahead of time to reduce the pressure.
  • Are there other ways to do this task that may make it even more manageable? I will work an extra hour at school where I am not interrupted, then not take work home with me, so I can relax.
  • If I cannot change the timing, what can I do to prepare for this intensity? I will make sure I take a break before the task, so that I am refreshed when it starts. I will make sure I get 8 hours sleep during the task.
  • I will ask my colleagues for support during the task to reduce the intensity.

Write your goals down

Once you have set yourself goals, write them down. You are far more likely to achieve your goals, once you have written them down. You should now have the beginnings of a workload strategy.

Simply, teachers who set themselves goals are happier. Figures released from the University of Kent in September 2010, in association with Education Support Partnership, show that teachers with career aspirations and a goal to learn were happier than those facing unrealistic expectations. Teachers who set high performance standards for themselves had higher levels of wellbeing. Similarly, teachers with a goal to advance their professional development had higher levels of mental energy and were more invested in their work than those who were focused on outperforming others.

Yet the study of 197 teachers, completed twice over three months, makes it clear that teachers should set these standards for themselves, rather than be imposed from colleagues or senior managers. In fact, teachers who felt that other people demanded more than they were capable of giving had higher levels of stress, stress-related ill health and burnout, as well as lower levels of wellbeing.