Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Working For The Weekend

Some might say I labour under the illusion that, as a teacher, one doesn't have to work at the weekends. Except it's not an illusion because I don't work at the weekends. There are others like me. Working at the weekend at home would be problematic for me as three under-five-year-old girls also live in my house. They are looked after all week by my amazing wife and by the time Friday night comes around I have to flick the 'work' switch to off and the 'life' switch to on. My wife needs me to, the girls need me to and I need to, too. To take it further, my colleagues need me to, my class need me to, my boss needs me to - if I haven't recharged my batteries at the weekend then work suffers as well.

So, how is this possible? 

Firstly, I recognise that I work in a supportive school with leaders who I know I can talk to if things are getting too much. When I was at interview for my post, I made them aware of my family situation - they took me on knowing that my whole life wouldn't be committed to the job, and they weren't empty promises. I am provided with a good amount of time to get work done within school hours, but just as all teachers find, it still isn't enough.

However, analysing my current situation, I think, could perhaps help one or two others. For example, I know weekends are out-of-bounds. My deadline for the week is Friday home-time, and all being well, work won't resume until Monday morning (apart from those times when I re-plan a whole lesson in the shower on Saturday morning). What might help you to avoid weekend work?

Deadlines
Deadlines are widely acknowledged to be an important aspect of productivity. What would happen if you set a similar deadline to the one my family dictates? If you've ever known an event was going to stop you from working at the weekend, then you probably got done what needed doing during the week, then enjoyed your best friend's wedding or your partner's birthday weekend away, possibly even returning to work on Monday feeling relaxed (even if you did get that Sunday-night feeling as you thought about another busy week ahead).

Routine & Busyness
I recently visited a physiotherapist who prescribed a few exercises which are to be completed three times a day. In the week, at my busiest times, I do every set of exercises. At the weekend, when I have loads of time to spare, I do one set at best. What's the difference? Routine and busyness. When I'm busy, I get more done as part of my daily routine. At less busy times, like the weekend, I am less productive. Using up those spare bits of time during the week can reap you the benefits at the weekend. You're probably more likely to be productive in those short time slots, in amongst the busyness of doing other jobs, than you might be at the weekend after you've had a lie in, a leisurely coffee and have neglected to get dressed!

Focus
I have to focus in order to be productive. To get more done in less time I have to do one task at a time. If other things are going on then I am distracted and take far longer to do things. Many teachers plan with the TV 'on in the background' (guaranteed not to be in the background, but in front of them!) - this one, I'm sure is down to personal preference, but removing all distractions (such as the TV) may just help you to cut down on work time. I'm convinced the work/life balance doesn't mean doing both at the same time, rather it means doing one, then the other: some work, then some play. 

My pastor always says 'If you don't book it in, you book it out!' and it is true; booking in time on the life side of the balance is a better way to ensure you get it. By making deadlines you are carving out time for 'you' (and your family, friends, hobbies etc), which is essential for your wellbeing. By using time during the week whilst you're already caught in the momentum of busyness you will achieve more. And by dedicating time to work without distractions you will be more productive. Any one of these time-saving methods could be employed alone, but together they are a powerful formula for beginning to avoid weekend work.

This video (The Science of Productivity) has some more great tips for how to get more done in less time:

2 comments:

  1. This is all fantastic advice. When I was teaching I was strict about my work hours. For example, I never worked beyond 8pm because I knew I needed the downtime and rest in order to perform in the classroom the next day. You give some excellent advice here - so much about productivity is down to discipline.

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    1. Thanks for saying - I really want to get that message across - you put it very succinctly!

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