Wellbeing: Whilst watching a re-run of 1990s tv show ‘Police, camera, action’ at 2.30 this morning (the things you do when you have a 20 month old who refuses to sleep through!) I heard a police officer talking about the risks drivers take when they speed; she used the phrase “Better to get there late than never at all!” and I started thinking about how this may also be the case in teaching.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by @BloggingAP and published with kind permission.
The original post can be found here.
In one of my previous blogs – ‘Wellbeing – we must do right by ourselves to do right by our pupils!’ – I wrote about the importance of teachers looking after their own wellbeing in order to teach effectively; one of the keys to looking after ourselves is the skill of prioritising tasks and not overloading ourselves. Whilst the results of a road traffic incident may cause serious physical damage, even death, stress and excessive workload can be as detrimental to mental health and wellbeing – teachers need to learn to prioritise tasks to avoid burnout even if this means that some deadlines are met late!
Teachers must not be ashamed to admit that they are struggling, that they are overloaded, that they need more time or support – school leaders must be aware of their role in supporting teachers.
“It’s better late than never at all”; turning in data sheets a few hours, even days, late is better than becoming so stressed that you are incapable of completing the task at all.
The key to this is of course openness, honesty and an understanding leadership team; teachers must not be ashamed to admit that they are struggling, that they are overloaded, that they need more time or support – school leaders must be aware of their role in supporting teachers.
Occasionally, we all get overwhelmed by the amount of tasks that we have, our ‘to do list’ seems never ending, there is no light at the end of the tunnel and no matter how hard we work there are just not enough hours in the day – you would be surprised at just how understanding the leaders in your school would be if you went to them and explained your situation, asked for an extension or some support. I’m sure that most leaders would rather understand your situation and do all they can to help out rather than be lied to when the deadline isn’t met.
For their part, school leaders should invest in training to teach teachers how to prioritise tasks, I firmly believe that it is something which should be included in ITT courses too.
Prioritising tasks is the foundation stone for teachers to use their time effectively and therefore work more effectively – hopefully improving their work life balance too!
So, how can teachers improve how they prioritise tasks, become better practitioners and ultimately improve wellbeing?
Teachers must recognise that they can’t do it all, and that everything is not equally important – there are always going to be times when work feels too much, like you will never complete the tasks that are in front of you. If this is the case, it is time to ask yourself, “What would happen if I didn’t do this?” “Which of these tasks is most important/needs completing first/will affect the children if it isn’t completed?”.
Prioritising can be as simple as writing a list – making it clear what you aim to achieve over the next few hours, days or weeks. I have recently become a big fan of Microsoft OneNote which enables you to create lists, make notes, add pictures and emails and hyperlink to web pages and files – it even allows you to put tick boxes next to each task, nothing is more satisfying than ticking off or scribbling out a task on your to do list!
Try organising your lists by ‘urgency’. Which tasks must be completed today or in order to enable you to complete another task? Prioritising tasks in this way relieves pressure and anxiety as you know that you are dealing with jobs in such a way that you will not miss any deadlines or fall behind.
Don’t forget to be realistic when prioritising – if you set yourself unrealistic targets and silly amounts to achieve, you are in fact adding pressure rather than relieving it! Set realistic amounts of work, if you complete more then consider it a bonus!
Don’t forget – be honest! Be honest with your colleagues and senior leaders – if you are struggling to keep up with work, marking, planning or to meet a deadline you must tell someone, they will help you – it is not in anyone’s best interest to have a stressed, anxious or ill teacher. Be honest with yourself, when it’s time to stop working – stop! Spend some quality time with friends and family, find a way to relax and switch off – overworking is often completely ineffective, it makes you stressed and anxious!
Take a little time to prioritise the tasks you have in order to relieve the stress and achieve a better work life balance.