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The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Alex Masters

Tick-tock! Time is not on your side

Sadly, The Rolling Stones song ‘Time is on my side’ rarely applies in day-to-day life. Get time on your side using these strategies to help you prioritise, delegate and learn to say 'No'!

‘I just need more time!’ has to be the most common refrain from people I meet in the education sector. And who can blame them? With constant and changing pressures, the end never seems to be in sight.

Fear not. We have a range of tips that will make your life easier.

Getting to know you

We’re all different so there’s never going to be a ‘one size fits all’ solution to this. So, the first thing you need is clarity about your personal identity. The clearer you are about yourself and your needs, the better you will be at making the right choices.

On a piece of paper, write down three things that are important to you in your role. This will help give perspective and motivate you.

Now answer these questions:

  • What does professional wellbeing mean?
  • What are the tell-tale signs that you’re stressed?
  • What currently concerns you at work?
  • What is in your control and beyond your control?
  • What can be done to support you?

Answering these questions honestly will help you gain insight and will also guide you as you prioritise your goals and seek extra support.

The sacred 30 minutes

Every day, when you are planning your tasks for the day or week ahead, always include a 30 minute ‘empty’ slot. This is a godsend for those unexpected moments. And not every day will be full of surprises – so you’ll have some windows of opportunity to take time out, make a cup of tea and decompress!

Learning to say ‘No!’

This has to be one of the hardest challenges: saying no. A colleague turns up at your door, stressed and begging for your help; or you have a raft of work to do that needs to be delegated but you’re reluctant to offload it onto someone else.

Saying no is, ironically, often one of the most positive ways to reduce your workload and stress levels. You have to remember you are simply not superhuman: you can’t respond to everyone’s needs. Similarly, there are times when certain tasks need to be delegated to other people.

It’s all about setting boundaries: find ways to show others that there is a time and a place. Put a ‘Do not disturb’ sign on your door; let people know there are certain times you are just not available.

How urgent is urgent?

Most of us set up our tasks for the day in a form of lists, with the most urgent and pressing at the top. But what happens when most of your tasks are urgent?

Firstly, consider whether you’re being reactive rather than proactive – are the same challenges coming up again and again? Invest time in setting up systems to prevent these crises happening again – this will save you future stress.

Don’t be a perfectionist: if you spend too much time on one activity, you might find that those less pressing ones actually start to become more urgent over time!

Manage the elephant in the room: everyone has one of these – it’s the task you don’t want to do, so you keep putting it off. The solution? Slice the elephant! Break it into bite-sized, manageable chunks that you can commit to over a number of days. Intersperse these with easier, quick win jobs and this will keep your morale up.

Lead the day with LEADS

Use the LEADS method to help prioritise your workload:

List tasks and deadlines.

Estimate time needed.

Allow time for unscheduled tasks.

Decide on priorities (including what you might have to delegate).

Scan to see what remains and either tackle, reschedule or cancel.

Time to fly

And remember, as a wise person once said: ‘The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.’

Time is the biggest enemy. Our downloadable time management toolkit offers a range of expert advice and resources for you and your team.

More on time management

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