I put a poll out on Twitter to find out what New Year's resolutions teachers had for 2024. The options were:
Now 62 votes is big numbers for Jan 1st, I was very pleased with the response. The result was that 77% of teachers were hoping to achieve better work-life balance, so here are a few tips gathered from 24 years of teaching.
A colleague wants you to take over the beekeeping club or hat-making class. Start of term, you may be still full of cheese and Baileys and tempted to say yes. It is a hard no from you, smile and walk away. You are working towards your goal of a better work/life balance.
Get an A3 desk pad, Amazon have an eye-watering selection, so get one that is as plain as possible. Monday morning's first work task (after any meetings) and before you look at your emails, is to write out the key tasks of the week and assign them a priority. I like washi tape to divide sections but you can easily draw lines. I have had colleagues do this on Word, which seems to work just as well as long as you have it open while you work. Blast through the important stuff first, yes it’s a fancy list. The key is 21 days to make a habit, so try it for 21 days, if you hate it and it’s not working towards your work/life balance goal then try something else. Something will stick.
PLAN HOLIDAY TIME
Part of the work/life balance is getting away and having some downtime. What tends to happen is the holidays roll around and you end up using them to catch up on marking, lesson planning and creating resources. Well if you need resources for business I can help, I have lots of free samples on the website LINK (plug over). To prevent this plan holidays, even if it’s just National Trust days out. Planned downtime means you have to complete your work tasks before leaving for the holidays and that will make you more productive. There is an expression “My carp grows to fill my pond”, which means the work will keep growing and will leak into your personal time. Plan holidays and when you get good at that, plan weekends so you don’t get the Sunday night horrors or the Monday morning yips.
I recently went on a holiday where there was no signal, so my phone became redundant. The first couple of days were hard, really hard, I missed social media updates, WhatsApp messages, phone calls, texts and emails. Then after two days ‘cold turkey’ a strange thing happened. I picked up a book and a crossword puzzle, I went for a walk, and the tension headache I had been nursing for forever went away. Of course, I came back from holiday and I am a slave to my phone again, but a digital detox was felt so good, I shall try and schedule in a few a year (cheaper than a spa break).
KAIZEN YOUR WORK
Kaizen is the Japanese term for continuous improvement, used in the automotive manufacturing industry, among other places. The concept means that each day you should try and improve your routine by very small increments. The idea is that you increase your efficiency and productivity saving you time that you could be spending on your bike, walking your dog or sitting relaxing.
Here are some Kaizen suggestions:
Day 1: Is there a better route to work that could save you time? Do you need to be in at 7:30am? Are you productive at that time? Make a small change to the start of a work day and observe any incremental increases in productivity or efficiency leading to more free time.
Day 2: Is there a better way to organise your email inbox? Can you use 'rules' to send your emails automatically into different subfolders? How much time will this save you every morning?
Day 3: Is there a better way to distribute the marking of essays or worksheets? For example, could you do QR codes for sixth-formers to scan leading to a rubric of comments? Does your school/college want student feedback on the feedback? Could this be automated? What about using review comments on Word?
Davy 4: Is there a quicker way to carry out the marking of work done in class? Peer marking, self-marking with grids? Team marking (ignore that it’s a horrible idea).
Day 5: Plan your holiday time and schedule in a digital detox.
Day 6: Is there a better solution than brainstorming ideas on a whiteboard? Why not learn how to embed a PADLET so your group can collaborate on a topic?
I hope there were some ideas there that you could use.
Sarah is a business teacher trainer; she has taught business for 23 years and has been a business examiner for over 20 years. If you would like to book a staff CPD session or exam revision session for students (via Zoom) please email: firstname.lastname@example.org