Managing your time and workload in your training year

Thomas CopelandBefore changing careers and moving into teaching, I worked as a consultant engineer and project manager for 10 years. My company would help some of the world’s largest companies to solve their trickiest technical challenges and develop their next-generation products. During my time in engineering, I helped to create new chocolate, coffee, beer and ice-cream products; new drug delivery devices and surgical instruments; robotic trousers and, once, a mechanical dragon. Simultaneously managing a number of technically demanding projects can teach you a few things about time management! Project Management TriangleOne useful thing to consider is the ‘Project Management Triangle’ - a model commonly used to express the quality of a project in terms of three variables: time, scope and cost. For example, you can deliver a quality project faster by increasing budget or reducing the scope. Similarly, if the client wants to increase the scope of the project, you will only be able to maintain quality by increasing the budget, time until delivery, or both! Simply put, you can have two of the three things without compromising quality, but not all three.

It is worth considering this from the point of view of a teacher: when planning a lesson, for example, the deadline for the start of the lesson is non-negotiable, but the amount of time that we are able to spend planning between now and then is down to us.  We might, therefore, choose to stay up late into the night to get the lesson just right. However, by losing sleep we will incur an additional cost to our physical and mental health, and possibly to our relationships!

We might choose to reduce the preparation time required by replacing that great investigation activity (that would have taken you two hours to prepare for) with a practice worksheet you pulled off the internet - but this might impact on the quality of the lesson. Finally, we might choose to reduce the amount that we’re going to cover within a lesson - but unless we’re going to catch up in future lessons, we might end up providing our students with an impoverished curriculum.

When it comes to managing our time, it is important to prioritise things with a clear understanding of the scope of the task, the amount of time it will take and the costs associated with it. We might consider burning the candle at both ends to be a cost that we are willing to incur in order to get the whole task done in the time available, to a standard we are happy with, but if these short-term costs start to become a long-term habit, then burnout can be a consequence.

By Thomas Copeland