Tag Archives: work life balance

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.

A release… What is yours?

A month ago I started the above, a new and separate mishmashlearning adventure. It is a blog about my sketching, a hobby I have embraced especially since the start of the school summer holidays. Recently while clearing a dusty corner under a desk at home I found an old notebook with three sketches from 2009,2010 and 2011 – 3 sketches in three years did not qualify as a hobby but I wouldn’t have taken the time out to apply myself to developing my skills.

I have liked scribbling ideas down, drawing diagrams in the classroom for years. In 2015 I have taken time to discover the restorative qualities of sketching, be it a corner of a rail carriage on the way to London or an architectural detail in a fine building or recapturing the awe behind a photo I took or I saw and wanted to emulate.

I have to thank Lucie Golton principally for helping me open my eyes. We have linked online and met now a few times, usually around hunting for large models of Aardman animation characters. She recommended sketching as a creative outlet and also the group known as Urban Sketchers or come from a broad brushstroke of life to sketch/paint/… live. When I started Lucie reassured me that I would see my output (refuse to use word #work) develop over time. She is 18 months ahead of me. I am now in my sixth month of sketching most days and it has given me a new outlook which I value dearly.

Yesterday I travelled to London, drew sketches on a train, in a crypt, out of the National Gallery window looking across Trafalgar Square and then inside the gallery. The other artists came from a wide variety of locations and backgrounds. Amateurs like me upto professional artists who earn their living from it, this is most noticeable when we gather to compare and discuss, if we wish, our pieces. The overriding atmosphere though is a shared love of using art to record. Previous meets have seen discussions on techniques, which paper/ pad /sketch pads to use; equipment – pens, pencils, obscurely name items that I am learning about; where did you purchase said equipment? – comparison of favoured shops / stockists. I am learning a new language and a new shopping habit, I confess I have the full colour selection of Cass bag for life bags (up to date on 12/12 anyway); pencils, pigment pens, alcohol based markers, bleed proof pads, sketch pads with bound or spiral bound spines, erasers, white pencils, art books, …Christmas will see money gifts that will be given for me to develop new techniques like water colouring in 2016. 

Yes I am hooked. This has become my mindful release. When I am sketching I am absorbed in the task, I am not easily distracted, other worries are left in picking up my sketch tool. I have blogged about it, talked about it with a range of people especially educators on Twitter. In October I even seemed to have acted at least as one of the inspirations for #teacher5adaysketch which was a great honour amongst a growing community actively promoting teacher wellbeing. The fact that I was signed off work due to my mental health breakdown just emphasised why I needed a distraction that took me away from work. If something doesn’t move it is fair game to attempt to sketch it.

What do you do to relax, switch off work, take time for yourself? Please share.

London Urbansketchers Sketchmeet yesterday – 2pm photoshoot, picture from Alexa Ramsaroop.