Time management is a huge aspect of successful anything or anybody. Without it, all sorts of people become whirling wrecks of stressed, late, overdue and unprepared. School Leadership is no different in this respect but good time management is a more that just a sign of good organisational skills and prioritising.
Time management is one of the stickiest aspects to reflect on, as a school leader:
With the number of child, staff, parent and child protection dramas that can take place in any one day, one can come away from a hard week without having accomplished any tangible ‘work’.
Having battled one’s way through the triathlon of parental anxieties or abdication , SEN bureaucracy; and made space for external professionals who maybe overwhelmed, under-resourced yet still wanting to be re-affirm their worth as practitioners, TIMs may find that every thing takes longer than planned.
Time management is a key indicator of well being and healthy boundaries. As a leader and as a line manager, it is something that TIMs really need to take note of, both for your team and for yourself. So here are EIGHT timely tips for Titan TIMs
1) Get a structured timetable for your week.
Structuring your weekly timetable is one of the most important tasks of the new school year.
It will help you to organise what you do and when you do it, whilst communicating that to your teams and stakeholders.
Without it you will be drawn into the ‘urgent but not important’ chaotic reactiveness that does a lot but cannot actually achieve much.
Set aside a regular, patterned time for weekly, fortnightly or monthly activities such as meetings with your various teams, external providers or parents. It allows you to set aside time for focused leadership tasks or interventions without lurching from one crisis to another.
2) Longitudinal planning.
I made up my own word here to describe longer term scheduling of important routine leadership tasks and activities, that are not daily but really impact the overall effectiveness of school leadership. As an Inclusion Manager your diary can easily end up full of important and ‘difficult to reschedule’ meetings up to four or more weeks in advance. This can mean that you are struggling to find space for more that a ‘quick chat’. Other senior leadership tasks such as the pupil progress meetings; the monitoring of teaching and learning and performance management meetings all need to find space in your diary, too. This is not only for your own continuous development but it helps to ensure that the voice of ‘inclusive practice’ feeds into classroom practice. It also avoids unnecessary grievances by ensuring that annual professional development deadlines, written feedback and data conversations happen on time. Longitudinal planning supports this by pre-booking these kind of tasks/ meetings so deadlines can be met and you can be aware of the potential bottlenecks and adjust accordingly. It also supports the well-being of your staff team because they too can prepare and organise their workload and time management.
3) Good communication about problems, priorities and principles.
One of the biggest time wasting factors is when teams or partners are unclear about the problem, and are not on the same page about what is important and how to resolve. Staff can have underlying principles about how things should be done or may be juggling competing priorities. At these times, it is really important that colleagues listen to each other and avoid assumptions. Questions that clarify can seem a little pedantic but they drill down to ensure a clear common understanding, an awareness of the differences in approach which when acknowledged fosters greater understanding, agreement and unity.
4) Get some boundaries.
It is not possible to overstate the importance of maintaining clear and healthy boundaries. This is not for the controlling megalomania or to be obnoxiously inflexible. It is about being able to bring the best of your professionalism to the role. Broken boundaries often belie unmet needs, unconscious passions or drives and competing or confusing priorities that will result in burnout, sickness and unnecessary additional drama, because believe it or not – You are finite. Inclusion leadership, can require superhuman feats, at times, but if it becomes your ‘modus operandi’, you will run out of steam. These are painful lessons to learn. I have listed some signs. Hear and heed the warnings or suffer the consequences:
Could you be a workaholic? Is early morning/late night working a routine habit? Are ‘Out of hours’ calls or social media contact with colleagues becoming a norm? Perhaps work is the part of your life that you feel you can control as a welcome distraction from other personal, emotional and relational difficulties? Do you notice or have others told you that you don’t seem to be able to mentally ‘switch off’ from work related matters? If this is happening to you, supervision and counselling can be helpful not only to find healthier patters but to help you consider whether your identity is too deeply attached to your work and achievements.
Routine neglect of self care tasks and activities? – These might include activities such as cooking, cleaning, exercise and fitness, knitting or playing an instrument. It certainly includes prioritising your own health appointments or spending time with non-work and ‘non- education’ friends.
5) MORET – Model, remind, encourage and thank.
It sounds like a fine wine – and if you can do it well it may even taste and feels that good too… but it’s my acronym for helping others in this area.
MODEL good boundaries, appropriate delegation and diary/ time management, but also appropriate self-care… (see below).
REMINDer emails and texts will keep your teams/ staff on their best game – so schedule them in, way in advance and where possible delegate these tasks to your admin team.
ENCOURAGE and praise your team as they are working towards a deadline. It creates a culture of value and praise. Ask people to share ‘how’ they organised themselves as well as ‘what’ they achieved. Good time management improves their well being, confidence and job satisfaction.
THANK your team when they submit work on time. It certainly makes your life easier and contributes to the smooth running of the place, but most importantly it recognises their time and effort. Remember also to thank those who come to speak to you, in advance about not being able to submit on time. It shows self-awareness and mutual respect.
6) ‘Working’ meetings rather than ‘To do list’ meetings.
Try to avoid meetings where you sit, discuss and then agree to do the ‘main work task’ at another time. The fact is – time is so precious that you want to keep these kind of ‘go home and finish off’ tasks to an absolute minimum. Obviously that policy or report cannot be completed during in a meeting with other colleagues sitting around you, and it is essential to read the needs of the person with whom you are meeting. If they are in serious distress – address that first. However, problem solving tasks like; creating new record keeping templates, minutes, scheduling meetings, quick email queries – can be done during the meeting, as a response to the discussion. As an added bonus, it gives the person the confidence that you have taken their issue seriously.
7) Managing people: Efficient v. Effective?
By far the most time consuming aspect of school leadership is the management of people – and to be honest this is right because in education especially human learning and development are the purpose, process and product of your good leadership, and this is what it should be for all leadership roles. Yes , you need to be efficient. Yes, you do need to be effective for the most vulnerable in your community. But if you fail to invest enough of time in the efficient and effective development of your staff team it’s difficult to see how you can foster or claim long term or deep seated success.
8) Time keeping and lateness
Time keeping is quite a different to time management. It is possible to manage the time demands of a task well and end up late to your next meeting . However routine lateness can be a sign of poor organisation, poor prioritising or the first sign of a deeper wellbeing issue such as overwhelm and depression, overwork and the need for growth and change. The root can vary from perfectionism or underlying attachment issues that manifest as a fear of being too early (or too late) or transitional issues stemming from an inability to leave or a habit of delay, when needing to move on from the previous activity or task.
It needs to be treated with understanding but also consequences, that help the staff member reflect on what is going on for them and how it impacts children, other colleagues and particularly safeguarding.
So that’s my EIGHT time management tips to keep you TIM Titans on top form… but don’t ever forget how to dress up, dance and play: Always make time for that stuff.