Managing Teacher Workload 1: A Workload Audit

As I suffocated under the avalanche of work that came my way as a new assistant principal, something had to change. To avoid burning out I needed to manage my workload in  a healthy way, without compromising its quality.

I’ll be sharing the strategies that helped me in this series about managing workload.

The first post of the series is about one of the tools I find most valuable: a workload audit. I found out about it in the book Managing Teacher Workload: Work-Life Balance and Wellbeing by Sara Bubb and Peter Earley. Their  audit was a fairly rigorous process, but I took a more relaxed approach.

1. Keep a diary

Keep a diary of what you spend your time on at work for a couple of weeks. (Yes, I know that this is yet another thing to remember to do). Write down very briefly what you were doing and the duration of the activity. Include interruptions, meetings, both informal and formal, breaks etc.

The very process of keeping a diary may immediately help you identify some areas you can change.

2. Categorise your activities

Try to categorise the activities in your diary. Here are some that I used:

  • lesson preparation
  • lesson delivery
  • parent meetings
  • planning meetings
  • information meetings
  • professional learning
  • responding to email
  • sorting paperwork
  • marking
  • mentoring staff
  • preparing newsletters
  • organising resources
  • school management

Record the amount of time you spent on each category over the two-week period.

3. Cost-Benefit Analysis

Ask yourself the value of the time spent on each category in terms of student learning outcomes.

In my case, I spent a ridiculous amount of time preparing activities for the IWB.  I’d been known to spend hours preparing resources that would only be used very briefly on just a single occasion. I learned to cut down on this sort of preparation time and reserve that effort for resources that would be used again and again.

4. Identify and plan to reduce the time-wasters

This is where it gets tricky. Some of those time-wasters feel as if they are beyond your own control. Start with the areas you can control, and make a time to discuss some of the other areas with your supervisor. Working collaboratively, you may find a creative solution to some of those areas that seem too hard to change.

Once you’ve completed your audit, you are well on the way to managing your workload. I’ll be sharing the time-wasters I found and more importantly, how I reduced or eliminated their impact, in the next posts of this series.

Have you struggled to manage your workload? What were some of the issues for you and what were some of the solutions?

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4 thoughts on “Managing Teacher Workload 1: A Workload Audit

  1. Hello Corisel,
    I enjoyed reading your blog post. I have often thought about keeping such a diary. This may be able to explain how I go from my morning coffee to 4pm in what feels like 2 minutes. I have attempted to be mindful of my actions and thoughts throughout the day which has certainly decreased the pace of my day. As I approach the school gate I prepare myself for those ‘have you got a quick minute’ ninjas that come from nowhere. Changing my thinking this way has allowed me to welcome ‘interruptions’ without the self-inflected added stress.
    Brad Crossman 😉

  2. Hi Brad, Thanks so much for leaving a comment.

    I think you are right, our thinking has a lot to do with our stress. I used to find those sorts of interruptions very frustrating. Once I started to recognise that they were part of my job, and if I didn’t deal with them now I’d have to deal with them later anyway, I found they weren’t nearly so frustrating, and often didn’t take much time at all. Most of the frustration I had been feeling was a product of my anxiety about staying on top of my workload – as you say, self-inflicted stress.

    I’ve also become much better at saying no to interupters if I really can’t spare the time, and scheduling a quick meeting or phone call for another time.

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