Will a change in mindset help you manage your workload?
Workload … The seeming insurmountable problem not only plaguing professionals up and down the country, but also around the world.
Education is a sector under threat from a wellbeing crisis at its core. Schools, teachers and support staff find themselves increasingly exhausted by ever-growing demands on resources and time. Learning to manage your workload can help alleviate some of the pressure.
Nobody enters into education for an easy life, the six-week holidays or the pay (despite what you might read on social media). People work in education to give something of themselves to the next generation, to pass something on. Whether that’s a love of a subject, or giving a young person a chance at life they may not had otherwise.
In giving something of themselves, educators take on so much more; very often giving more of themselves than is good for their wellbeing.
Workload will always be high, whether its marking, meetings, planning or teaching (too often at the bottom of the list). To an extent, it’s become the nature of the job. That does not mean workload should be the defining characteristic of your role, nor should it be the cause of such a wellbeing and retention crisis.
It won’t be long before we see more and more teachers ‘quietly quitting.’
From managing to thriving …
The ‘to-do list’ is getting longer! Marking is piling up … The reports need writing … It won’t be wished away, but it can be managed.
For many, managing workload can be as much about changing your mindset as it is about reducing the amount of work. As teachers, we give so much of ourselves to our profession, like many in the public sector. It is therefore vital we learn to safeguard our wellbeing. A phrase that started as a throw-away comment about productivity has now involved into a personal and professional mantra:
Live your life deliberately.
Live and breath this mantra. It is about taking control and owning your decisions.
Everything you do should be a deliberate act. If you mark a set of books, you choose to do it at that point. If you decide not to return that parental phone call until later in the week, you choose to do it. Leaving early on a Wednesday? That is a deliberate choice. If you are choosing to say no to something, own that choice.
The fundamental principle is to own your decisions and choices.
Too often, we fail to prioritise our tasks, and we certainly fail to prioritise ourselves. We let our never-ending ‘to-do list’ dictate our happiness. You control the list, not the other way around. Even if you work in a difficult situation such as a toxic school, you always ultimately have a choice.
6 top tips for thriving:
1. Live deliberately: Take deliberate action in your personal and professional life. Take back control of the process. You manage the workload, not the other way.
2. The power of ‘No’: Learn to say nowhere appropriate. There are many professional ways to turn down that extra task or additional responsibility.
3. Consult your list: Write a to-do list every morning. Categorise it. What needs doing today, this week, or at some point down the line? Not all jobs are created equal.
4. Time your tasks: We’ve all planned lessons and timed the tasks accordingly. Do the same with your day. Allow an hour to mark those books, or 30 minutes to plan your lesson. Whatever you do in that time will be good enough. You are an expert after all!
5. Take advantage of resources: Use any help you can access, try The Toolkit membership or the resources from @TeacherToolkit, to TES or other teachers in your department. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved (please ask your school to pay for subscriptions)!
6. Choose yourself: Make sure you have a least one night a week you leave early and have no intention of working into the small hours. Make sure you plan in time for your wellbeing, family, and friends. This job is never finished, so don’t burn out trying to complete every last task!
We cannot wish away our workload, but we can choose how we approach it. Be deliberate in your personal and professional life. A new outlook will take you from managing to thriving. Learn to be incomplete, imperfect and unfinished.