Tag Archives: focus

Time management – how might I improve?

I am currently in a phased return to work after an extended absence of two months due to mental health issues – see posts in October 2015 onwards. Having time away from work has meant that reflection has taken place about why I got to be in such a place in the first case. Time is always the resource that we crave more of, but usually this is expressed in terms of completing work tasks or alternatively to have time with family/ friends. I know that I work too many hours each week for school. I fail on the work life balance and it bites from time to time because it triggers other issues as mentioned above.

So I have been reflecting – the issue of the moment: work – life balance, I need one, as do many of us. However, how can I achieve it? So I turned to an Internet search on time  management strategies. I came across the Pomodoro technique or Tomato technique!?! Wary at first as it presents as someone’s vehicle to profit, but as always there are ways to use the idea without buying branded accessories (www.pomodorotechnique.com).

Essentially the method breaks work tasks (importantly not leisure time – this is a work efficiency tool) into 25 minute slots. Each slot involves focus on ONE* task (more than one small task may be combined to fill one pomodoro).  It is about not multi-tasking. I recommend reading this for yourself from the official website.

During a 25 minute slot – a pomodoro – you work on your task. If there are any distracting thoughts / interruptions, record what they were for allocation later, but do not respond. If you have to respond then that pomodoro is incomplete. After the allocated time – signalled using a timer of some sort (my interpretation – I use a clock or timer – there are apps available).

This is one page from the Apple App Store.

At the end of the pomodoro I am keeping a record of tasks achieved and am using this with my son and his college tasks (since 01 January as an experiment) so that we can both use our time more efficiently. Then your reward is a 5 minute break away from the work – have a drink, use the loo, stand and have a stretch.

You repeat the cycle. A task may take more than one pomodoro, in fact you can learn how long certain repetitive tasks can be completed in when focused. I will be using this myself for tasks including lesson planning, marking a set of books, restricting time spent on answering emails each day. This will be part of my reviewing my work efficiency as I have set a 50 hour weekly work limit. I will not always complete tasks and will have to plan well so that I meet school and exam board deadlines. After 4 pomodoros you are recommended to take a 30 minute break. For my son I am using this after 3 pomodoros to start with.

I will review this through the blog and would like to share ideas with others using it. Already some colleagues online are investigating the technique. The pomodoro website also links it to concentration spans for ADD sufferers, which is where I hope it will help my son.

This is one of my strategies for work-life balance, let’s see how 2016 goes.

P.S. If leaving 17 year old instructions while out, remember that 25 minute work slots can be timed. Games playing online has no such restrictions!! A less than impressed Dad.

Life posts …again

In my last post on June 9 the hope was there that things would resolve peaceably and somehow we would live on, a struggle yes, but maintain some normality. Yep, high hopes dashed again. Friday 14/6, he that posts refer to was seen by his keyworker and was ok but increased drinking and use of recreational substances and tobacco meant that he had outstayed his welcome with his latest sofa stay. Also prescribed meds had been replaced with the above combination in his perceived wisdom as they were not working for him. Admission of psychosis issues seen last year were back.

We texted him on the Saturday- would he meet for lunch in a neutral place and could we bring any things for him. He agreed and luckily warned us that he had made that long promised hirsute decision to shave his head. We met and for the first time, yes really, came across him puffing away on a cigarette, we chatted and were told how he had refused alcohol or drugs that morning as he was meeting us (some decisions just amaze). He had nowhere to sleep for that evening and this was one area of discussion. Our young man was getting more and more ill physically and mentally. It was hard to see but at the same time so glad we had offered to meet and actually still have some sort of connection.

While we ate one of the support team rang him as promised and also spoke to us. We were all (adults) concerned about the lack of a place to stay in his current state. A crisis admission was set up for the nearest adolescent unit. He agreed to it and we transported him there quite calmly. After meetings we sat with him while ward admissions went on. Signs of agitation showed quickly but here was a chance to be assessed without being sectioned, a topic that we as parents have become far too familiar with. We left him to settle having actually spent 6 hours together the longest in ages.

Later I rang to see had he settled? No issues and aggression had led to a need to section. He was transferred late that night to another unit to be held there until a secure adolescent bed hopefully closer than Woking could be found. By Monday work was not going to see me I had exceeded my limits and my stable base of antidepressants had finally capitulated. Self promises about returning became Tuesday, then Wednesday as a suitable bed could not be secured. We heard of offers for Manchester. This pressure was too much. Yes now, Friday 21/6 he is in a secure unit in a better travelling distance. I went to the GP on Tuesday and admitted no I could not cope to keep up this “well” pretence.

I am now signed off work and yesterday had to face the lowest I have been in many years it was scary. Fortunately the one thing I am not is suicidal and that is a place
that I do not want to go- I like life generally and I have much, more to do / achieve.

So, why am I laying my life open like this? because it is a topic that I have raised in previous schools. I have a history of mental health (depression) through a variety of causes. I take my meds, I have received counselling, the best therapy was CBT several years ago. I keep our staff well being and line managers informed when I am struggling. They have always been supportive these last few years as I have rebuilt a good attendance rate. I have a range of friends on Twitter and other social networks who support each other. We are not in competition over this very important issue we collaborate, we share, we support, we coax, coach each other and it sure helps.

Mental health is still a major cause of stigma – let’s stand up and be counted. We want to do our job as well as anyone else and as has been seen in lots of press articles over the years we are depicted as a weakness. Why? I am a human with a complex life like many of my pupils and I have to learn to manage the different aspects of my life. Sometimes I can not do that but for the vast majority of the time I am striving to do the best I can and I believe I do so.

Support mental health, understand it and develop an aware workforce and student population who are prepared for such eventualities that may happen to them in their futures.

If you have read all of this, thank you. If you are at TMEast on Saturday this is why I can not be with you but as co-presenter James said there are more Teachmeets. I have been the lucky recipient of many messages of goodwill this week and they are helping me to work towards a return to work and relative stability.