Type ‘time management theories and models’ into Google and you’ll get over 1.4 million results in 0.66 seconds.
Delve into the results and you can quite easily get lost exploring the genius of Stephen Covey’s Prioritisation Matrix or the psychological theories of Flow by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi and even the innovative State Management approaches of the Think Productive team and others. Suddenly it’s three hours later and that lesson plan still hasn’t been written…
Fine tune your search within businessballs.com and it takes 0.27 seconds to find 2,490 results which is still a lot of reading (and time) to find help on how you can balance planning lessons, marking work and writing up behaviour plans... Aaagghhh the stress levels are rising and still no magic ‘time management’ wand in sight!
This is not a ‘fix all’ article; over the next few editions of Everything Curriculum, I’ll share some techniques that could help you and some further reading and resources for you to explore.
Some ideas may not be relevant for you, that’s fine. All I would suggest is that you look at these and try a couple to see which works for you. Many of the suggestions complement each other, and could be used as a strategy rather than a one–off attempt to reduce Class 2C’s workbooks down to a manageable pile.
Workflow not list
Traditional time management theories focus on tasks to complete and so we have grown up with the concept of a ‘to–do–list’. We all have a to–do–list, at work and at home.
How many of us have used the traditional to–do–list with the different tools such as dots, or marks next to tasks? How many of us feel like the to–do–list is never ending, adding extra dots or moving the priority onto the next page, then the next, then the next!
It’s never ending! Consider thinking about work in a holistic way – look at our work and tasks as a flow of our work rather than individual tasks to complete. Once we look at our work like this, we can then begin to plan and make the best choices as we ask, ‘what’s the next action?’.
The Pareto Principle is derived from Vilfredo Pareto’s observation that only a ‘vital few’ of the peapods in his garden produced the majority of peas.
The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
It’s a common rule of thumb in business; e.g. ‘80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.’
Using the 80/20 principle, we can start to recognise that not all of what we do creates an equal amount of impact. 20% of what we do accounts for 80% of the impact. This should serve as a daily reminder to focus the majority of your time and energy on the relatively small number of activities that produce the majority of results.
Learning to recognise and then focus on that 20% is the key to success and the key to effective time management.
Richard Koch has written extensively on how to apply the principle in all walks of life. His writings are published on the ‘Buzzle’ website.
Trick yourself into working
Procrastination is one of my biggest blockers to productivity. I find that my procrastination monkey kicks in when I have my big pieces of work to complete, particularly when it is a piece of work that I do not enjoy completing.
One way to trick myself into working and completing these tasks is adopting Brian Tracy’s approach of ‘eating the frog’.
There’s a saying “if the first thing you do when you wake up each morning is eat a live frog, nothing worse can happen for the rest of the day!”
I believe that’s a safe assumption! Brain Tracy suggests that your ‘frog’ should be the most difficult task on your pad – the one that you’re most likely to procrastinate on. If you ‘eat that first’, it will give you momentum and engagement for the rest of the day. But if you don’t, if you let him sit on the plate while you do a hundred unimportant things it can drain your energy and you won’t even know it!
So, your homework – review your tasks and identify your frog. Eat that first!
Know your enemy
Record everything you do for a day or two, better still if you have varied days, keep the time–log for a week. You’ll be amazed; for instance, how long on average are you able to work between each interruption? Many managers struggle to achieve more than five or six minutes. If that’s you, you need to make changes.
Challenge anything that could be wasting time and effort, particularly habitual tasks, meetings and reports where responsibility is inherited or handed down from above. Don’t just assume that just because ‘we’ve always done it this way’ that it’s still appropriate or even required at all. Think about why you are doing things, and whether there is a better way.
Review your activities in terms of your short–term and long–term goals, and prioritise your activities accordingly. Especially, plan preparation and creative thinking time in your diary for the long–term jobs, because they need it. If you don’t plan for the preparation you’ll never do it, and all the work will get left to the last minute (sound familiar?). The short–term urgent tasks will always use up all your time unless you plan to spend it otherwise.
The above article was taken from our termly online magazine 'Everything Curriculum'. To read the magazine in full or to sign up to receive the next version via email, please click here.
To read Time management tips for teachers part 2, please click here.