The #5MinMainThingPlan

Reading time: 3


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

This is a blog about priorities and features yet another 5-Minute Plan by @TeacherToolkit and @LeadingLearner.

It’s the start of another term or half term and there seems so much to do. As Stephen Covey’s famous quote goes, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” In an increasingly frenetic world and the busyness of the school day, it is too easy to lose focus.

Focus Scrabble

Image: Jill Catley

The #5MinMainThingPlan has been devised to help you keep your key priorities in mind and create a simple plan to make sure the main things get done. Pulling together the key development or improvement plan priorities, alongside the routine issues and tasks and keeping on top of more maintenance style issues is all part of the job. The #5MinMainThingPlan pulls it all together onto one page.


Development Plan:

Your development or improvement plan should contain the key things that you intend to work on during the academic year. These are likely to be big issues that will require significant time for you and/or your team to discuss and formulate plans. There are likely to be some decisions to be made and professional development needs to be met if a smooth implementation is to ensue. Due to the time-intensive nature of development plans, you will need to keep the number of objectives in your plan to a minimum.

Routine Activities:

Routine activities can be found in the school’s calendar. Make a note here of any that are likely to require significant time to prepare, complete or follow-up. Avoid listing everything that is in the school calendar, you just want the time-consuming ones which will impact on your capacity to get other jobs done. For example, if an assessment data is due, there will be time required to prepare examination or tests prior to the assessment cycle, and then follow-up time to analyse results and put in place any interventions afterwards.



In the maintenance section of the plan, you should record the revision of schemes of learning, policies, departmental handbooks and other similar activities that are required in schools.

This first part of the #5MinMainThingPlan is to pull together the improvements, priorities and activities that are scheduled to be completed this term or each half-term. At this point take a step back and consider whether you have so many priorities you are setting yourself up to fail. Doing less better is preferable to starting hundreds of jobs and failing to complete them, or worse still, making yourself ill!  If you need to reduce down the number of priorities, so only the most important remain and will be done well, this is a good time to do so.

Key Meetings:

It could be argued that every meeting is key. When you add up the total time for everyone in a meeting, it soon becomes apparent how precious meeting time is. There’s no time to waste. Identify the dates for your key meetings for the term or half-term ahead and begin to assign the main agenda items using the development plan priorities, routine activities and maintenance issues you have previously identified. It’s possible to set up the main agenda items for the whole term or even year with a bit of forward planning. Make sure you’ve given the main things plenty of time and that you have the thinking, planning and implementation correctly sequenced.


Month by Month Planning:

The final area of the plan, is to schedule the main things into your monthly planners. Firstly, transfer across the meetings. In the example below, we’ve used a simple numbering system to put the meetings on the appropriate dates. Check your own diary and put a big cross through any dates where you have a full teaching day or back to back meetings and something in the evening. On these days you’re not going to get anything else done and it’s no-good pretending otherwise!

Think about the preparation you want to do prior to a meeting, and make sure you get any preparation colleagues need to do, out to them in good time. Once you are into a good rhythm you will develop positive habits, like getting agendas and papers out a week in advance and follow-up actions (names against each one and deadlines) within 48 hours. Add in other key tasks.

Exemplar #5MinMainThingPlan

Once you’ve got your plan put it on the wall and stick to it.  Don’t allow less important distractions or other people’s lack of organisation stop you keeping the main things the main thing.

If you would like to share this or know a colleague who would benefit, click here, or see here how everybody else is using the plan.


The 5 Minute Series:

You can read more from the 5 Minute Plan Series here, with over 30 templates on offer for free to help reduce your workload! Here are some of the most popular ideas …

Copyright  Licence:

The #5MinMainThingPlan by Ross Morrison McGill and Stephen Tierney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on all work published at and

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.



11 thoughts on “The #5MinMainThingPlan

  1. Although I am not in a position to use these right now (and I prefer tech to handwritten….) I think they are fabulous resources. It makes me realise that there are people in the system who will be able to reverse some of the negative trends of late with a system of accountability that is still humane. A lot of guff is talked about the private sector – the best companies do have that same quality otherwise they would not retain their best workers… and we need to retain our best teachers because even the most confident NQT’s need support, a shoulder to cry on sometimes and someone who can give them advice, watch a lesson, etc.

    1. Good to hear. There are many schools working hard to cull the pointless workload guff found in school.. The focus nationally is increasing, but in reality, teachers are not reporting much change. I have written more about it here.

      1. I think it needs people like you to change it though. Think about the fact that people can go to SLT with some of the resources you have produced and ask for similar. Without examples we will not move forward!!

  2. Pingback: The #5MinMainThingPlan by @TeacherToolkit and @LeadingLearner | Teachers Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.