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10 tips for managing your workload

There is no doubt that workload is a major cause for concern among teachers. Research tells us that time consuming marking, excessive planning, lack of suitable resources and data management processes cause teachers significant grief due to the amount of bureaucracy they generate.

In order to address these genuine concerns, the Government created policy review groups to explore each issue. The reports of these review groups can be accessed here and contain much food for thought as well as useful ideas.

Yet the delicate art of balancing workload needs to be a little more all-embracing if are to prevent teachers from feeling disillusioned and leaving the profession. As the new term gets underway, we recommend trying some of these ideas.

Getting organised

First things first, there is no way around the simple fact that we have a finite amount of time for work in each day. If we have too much to do, either we have to reduce our workload or spend less time on each task. Getting organised is a great first step…

– List everything you have to do each day. This is an essential stage of getting organised. If we get overwhelmed with workload it’s easy to just tackle each task as it hits you without ever getting an overview and allocating time so that everything gets done. Time spent focusing on a task list is never wasted.

– Allocate time to each task. Be ruthless. The aim is to preserve and protect non-work time so that you create more balance in your life. Allocating time to each task helps to ensure that your work doesn’t bleed into the rest of your life.

– Do one task at a time! It really is the best way to get things done.

Achieving balance

Achieving balance in your life takes daily focus. We can’t assume we’ll naturally retain great wellbeing when working in a busy role unless we pay attention to how we balance each day. It may feel there’s little choice – teaching can be hectic! But we do have a little control…

– Be very honest with yourself about how your time is spent. Perhaps keep an activity log for a few days.

– Never underestimate what you can achieve in just a few minutes a day. For example, ten minutes a day reading a novel, tidying, developing subject knowledge, resting, learning a new skill… the list is endless.

– Divided attention leads to tension. Consider adopting some mindfulness strategies when you’re working.

– Allow yourself downtime during your working day. You do not have to be available every second!

Keep a positive mindset

The most effective way of avoiding the trap of negative thinking is to be self-aware. How are you feeling about your workload? Can you detect signs that you’re getting stressed? Are you working effectively? This kind of self-awareness is the signal you may need to take action to support your sense of wellbeing.

– Do you know who you can talk to at school about managing your workload? It’s well worth sharing your concerns with a trusted colleague. Undoubtedly they will be able empathise and may have some great tips for you.

– Look again at your workload. Is everything on your “to do” list absolutely vital? What short cuts can you use? What can be left out altogether? Remember, perfectionism isn’t usually a helpful trait!

– Take really good care of your wellbeing. Plenty of sleep, good food and moderate exercise will go a long way towards keeping you in balance and able to tackle what needs to be done.

It would be folly to suggest that there’s a simple formula to avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed out that is certain to work for all, but some of these strategies just might work for you. Better still, may they be the inspiration to trigger your own solutions.

8 thoughts on “10 tips for managing your workload

  1. I coudn’t agree more. Teachers work too much and for too long. Their working day never ends, what with the bureaucracy, the marking, the making of resources and materials … I hardly have time to have lunch -ten minutes at the most-, no time for myself, for exercising and lead a healthy life. Teaching is making me crazy, stressed and depressed. I was a vocational teacher but now I no longer want to be one. On top of it all, half my salary goes to paying the rent, so I have neither the time nor the money to enjoy a night at the cinema or dinner in a restaurant. No wonder teachers are leaving the job. The funny thing is that the Government spent money so that we could become Qualified Teachers. Something should be done ; shouldn’t the Unions be doing something already ?I wonder

  2. Read the tips but unfortunately teaching isn’t like any other job so whilst the tips may sound helpful the workload is for many impossible and prioritising is the hardest to address as everything is important.

  3. Prioritising is particularly difficult. I think that preparation and marking are priorities but then I am constantly badgered by other members of staff who think that their requests should be done first! So what can I do? I answer all those emails on time, complete various administration type tasks demanded of me each week, go to meetings, open evenings etc etc. So many extra tasks to do outside the classroom! This stops me from being ‘difficult’, makes me a ‘team-player’ (because “everyone else has found time to do it…”) and makes me feel I am keeping up with the real hardworking staff. My marking and prep? Squeezed in, rushed, half finished, done whilst I’m dog tired. When I talk to bosses about balance they positively agree that I should find it. “Don’t overload yourself!”. So which bit do I leave out exactly? My work life is made very difficult if I try to leave out any ‘extra tasks’ or fail to set homework or fail to mark work. It’s not pleasant. So either my mental health suffers or my prep and marking do. I’ll let you guess which.

  4. I agree with Max completely. By the time you have dealt with all those administration jobs and extra curriculum activities the actual teaching role is rushed and planning last minute and not adequate. As for marking well where do I start! I used to have a life before teaching and my health has definitely suffered too. Still looking for the answer for a work life balance but I don’t think there is one when there are so many priorities.

  5. The tips are great and what everyone should take on board in order to have a work/life balance. Unfortunately, the work load of teachers makes this impossible. I recently retired from full-time teaching and am so glad to be away from working 7 days a week. The comments of the previous posts resonate with me, particularly Max’s comments about planning and marking when you’re just exhausted, quite frankly. The ‘to do’ list was never-ending and I never got to the bottom of it, often adding more than I could cross off. It saddens me that so many talented people are leaving the profession. I worked in a great school, in a difficult area, where most of the teachers were relatively young; all could not see themselves doing the job past the next five years and planned to make their escapes. Something has to change and it’s not the mindset of those that are working above and beyond the call of duty!

  6. As someone who has just effected the ‘great escape’ – I think many things are good tips but the job has a knack of swallowing you whole. I was working 80 hours a week as a head, didn’t sleep and my health was quite frankly rubbish. I was able to prioritise and tried really hard to keep on top but the things that just walk through your door every day mean even the best organised are going to have to catch up in their supposed ‘holidays’ and weekends. I do fear for the next generation of teachers and Headteachers. Even with the most positive staff and brilliant leadership, the nature of the beast is that it is endless and we do need to take a long hard look at what we are offering the next generation of staff. I have rediscovered the concept of ‘lunch hour’, ‘breaks’, seeing my children, time off to name but a few. Let’s hope someone wakes up to this before it is too late.

  7. I’m sure preparing for classes should be time-consuming, but I think children many times can and should have the ability to review their own homework. I used to have teachers who let the children mark their own homework by comparing to the answers on the blackboard, and others who made us swap notebooks and mark our colleagues’ homework. It makes the kids feel more empowered, and it probably would relief some teacher’s constant overload. Some schools don’t actually think homework work. I think homework is important, but mostly to teach the children about time-management, and how to get stuff done when they are due. I think whether they got 50%, 70%, 90%, or 100% of their homework correct is not necessarily the end all and be all.

  8. It saddens me to read these comments yet I know it is what I have to come as a PGCE student applying for jobs. As yet I have only actually applied for one but I have been looking at alternatives to be honest. I have wanted to teach for 20 years and now I am doing it I feel quite deflated and ‘down’ about teaching. I hope to get my NQT year done and then decide whether to stay in the profession after that. I hope things improve for all of our sake as teachers otherwise I fear for the future of education and children. They should be receiving a first class education but I fear that they won’t always due to the pressures that teachers are under.

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