There is no doubt that workload is a major cause for concern among teachers. Research tells us that time-consuming marking, excessive planning, lack of suitable resources and data management processes cause teachers significant grief due to the amount of bureaucracy they generate.
In order to address these genuine concerns, the Government created policy review groups to explore each issue. The reports of these review groups can be accessed here and contain much food for thought as well as useful ideas.
Yet the delicate art of balancing workload needs to be a little more all-embracing if are to prevent teachers from feeling disillusioned and leaving the profession. As the new term gets underway, we recommend trying some of these ideas.
First things first, there is no way around the simple fact that we have a finite amount of time for work in each day. If we have too much to do, either we have to reduce our workload or spend less time on each task. Getting organised is a great first step…
– List everything you have to do each day. This is an essential stage of getting organised. If we get overwhelmed with workload it’s easy to just tackle each task as it hits you without ever getting an overview and allocating time so that everything gets done. Time spent focusing on a task list is never wasted.
– Allocate time to each task. Be ruthless. The aim is to preserve and protect non-work time so that you create more balance in your life. Allocating time to each task helps to ensure that your work doesn’t bleed into the rest of your life.
– Do one task at a time! It really is the best way to get things done.
Achieving balance in your life takes daily focus. We can’t assume we’ll naturally retain great wellbeing when working in a busy role unless we pay attention to how we balance each day. It may feel there’s little choice – teaching can be hectic! But we do have a little control…
– Be very honest with yourself about how your time is spent. Perhaps keep an activity log for a few days.
– Never underestimate what you can achieve in just a few minutes a day. For example, ten minutes a day reading a novel, tidying, developing subject knowledge, resting, learning a new skill… the list is endless.
– Divided attention leads to tension. Consider adopting some mindfulness strategies when you’re working.
– Allow yourself downtime during your working day. You do not have to be available every second!
Keep a positive mindset
The most effective way of avoiding the trap of negative thinking is to be self-aware. How are you feeling about your workload? Can you detect signs that you’re getting stressed? Are you working effectively? This kind of self-awareness is the signal you may need to take action to support your sense of wellbeing.
– Do you know who you can talk to at school about managing your workload? It’s well worth sharing your concerns with a trusted colleague. Undoubtedly they will be able empathise and may have some great tips for you.
– Look again at your workload. Is everything on your “to do” list absolutely vital? What short cuts can you use? What can be left out altogether? Remember, perfectionism isn’t usually a helpful trait!
– Take really good care of your wellbeing. Plenty of sleep, good food and moderate exercise will go a long way towards keeping you in balance and able to tackle what needs to be done.
It would be folly to suggest that there’s a simple formula to avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed out that is certain to work for all, but some of these strategies just might work for you. Better still, may they be the inspiration to trigger your own solutions.
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for eTeach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.