How Can I Be More Efficient?

As the holidays grind slowly towards their bitter end, thoughts of school begin to bubble in the subconscious. At night, where once I would sleep happily with thoughts of the next day’s socialising and relaxation, I now think of how to decorate my classroom’s window and which font to write all my posters in. 

2014/15 is a big year, with lots of jazzy elements to it. If it is to be a successful year, it will require a Herculean effort on my part to improve my self-organisation. Throughout my life, I have always managed to get by and to get everything done – even when I have had lots to do – through chancing it. This year, I think my list of demands is large enough that I can no longer rely on the Northern philosophy of ‘It’ll be rate’. Instead, I have to get my things in order, get my yearly planner out, smash out my Google Calendar and set up a colour coded priorities chart.

Before I share my to do list, in the hope that sharing it will effectively hold me to account for my own progress, I have to share the two things that I know have really helped me to organise myself, despite my disposition being towards clutter, workmountains and disarray. These two things are a TeachFirst session I attended and also my friend Luke.

I attended a TeachFirst project called the Primary Leadership Project, which was about identifying an area of weakness in your school or in your teaching, and then designing a short-term measurable intervention to rectify that weakness. In the course of doing mine, I came to see that my strength was in the colourful and exciting phase of ‘newness’ – I am good at setting things up, presenting something new and branding it, and getting people on board. My weakness is my butterfly mind, which tends to flutter off onto some new interest fairly quickly. What I was challenged to do, through the reflective cycle used by TeachFirst, was to change the way that I worked so that rather than injecting all of my initial enthusiasm into the ‘big launch’ of whatever I was doing (clubs, activities, interventions), I should use that energy to also make a long term and medium term plan of what the project would look like at the end. By bringing the long-term firmly into the realm of my initial excitement stage, I have become much better able to structure the things that I do so that my enthusiasm doesn’t stray towards other more exciting ventures, leaving loose ends of incompletion in my wake. 

The other thing that has helped me enormously is my friendship with a chap called Luke, with whom I coordinate a children’s charity. Between us, we organise and deliver holidays for children who are involved with social services, and each year, we get together a team of volunteers, hire out a venue etc, and then run the week with about 30 kids and 20 volunteers. Luke and I are different in our skill sets. As a teacher, I tend to run the child-centred side of things; leading activities, crowd control, telling offs, pep talks. Luke, who works as a Civil Servant, is the most obscenely and enviably efficient person I have ever met, and he simply owns all elements of the administration. From Luke, I have seen what efficient looks like – it looks like Google Drive, it looks like Task Priority Wall Charts (to be done now, to be done next, to be done by today, to be done before tomorrow…) and it looks like plastic wallets and filing boxes. 

In order to be organised then, I need to not throw myself into starting a million new projects that I never complete; I shall instead start half a million, and plan their trajectory, from start to finish, right at the stage of project inception. And also, I shall channel the efficiency of my organisational role model, whose systematic approach to prioritisation means that he can complete the workload of about fifteen regular humans, and still have time to meet up for a chocolate shortcake and a peppermint tea after work.

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