Learning to manage my time – can I keep it up?!

I have this strange habit of wanting to fill every hour of my day with “something constructive”. If I pair that with the feeling of not wanting to “let people down” it can lead to a very full diary.

Lately I have been reflecting more than usual. It comes naturally to me anyway, however, the lockdown period from March to June 2020 gave me more time to reflect. I thought a lot about my use of time and how moving to a bigger role as a secondary SBL meant I needed to become smarter with my time or I could easily get too overwhelmed.

Like all SBLs I know, I have a love of stationery and that leads me to randomly buy notebooks from time to time. During the lockdown period I cracked open a new notebook to do some life planning. It was great to get things out of my head and into some kind of sensible plan.

I started with my promise to myself to continue with my goal to not work all the hours under the sun. So far, since changing jobs in 2019, I have managed to keep this promise but it has taken some work. I set an alarm on my Fitbit 3 days a week that gives me a nudge at 4pm. It reminds me not to get started on anything too heavy at this point in the day. It usually works and I am out by 4:30pm and home by 5pm. From time to time I will look over my emails after 9pm but generally I will not go home and do any work. As part of my life planning I revisited that commitment and acknowledge that although it’s my general principle I can’t always manage it, but that’s ok. As long I don’t allow myself to routinely overwork I’m ok with that.

I then acted on to my desire to “give back”. In May 2020 I made the decision to launch ABBLed (the Association of Bame Business Leaders in Education). I knew it would involve a serious time commitment so had to make a trade off. At that point I had been a school governor in one school or another for 14 years. I had spent much time in evening meetings, weekend strategy sessions and full days for school visits. I knew that it would be too much to keep up with but equally I felt attached to my role and didn’t want to walk away from it. My four year term was due to end in September 2020 and so rather than resign I decided to see out my term but not put myself forward to be co-opted further. It was sad to go but it felt much nicer to be ending on a high note than to leave with the feeling that I had left the job incomplete.

So I’m at a point when I’ve traded in my governor duties to make time to work on my new network ABBLed. Running alongside that I’m trying to focus on the shift from being operational to being more strategic. When I took on this role I knew that would be my biggest challenge. I’ve talked this through with several SBL colleagues and it also led me to an impromptu mentoring session from @WrexhamSBP (aka Andy). I came to the conclusion that I have been overthinking things and placing far too much emphasis on the word “strategic”. It wasn’t realistic to expect all of my operational duties to disappear overnight. I also needed to give myself much more credit for the planning that I have been doing such as putting together a PFI exit plan or preparing to declare a Climate Emergency.

Not too long ago I had a “penny drop” moment that led me to revisit my priorities. During one of my weekly catch up sessions with my boss I recounted all the premises issues that had come up recently and all the running around I had been doing to resolve them. I was quietly pleased with myself for being so “on it”. My boss asked a simple question – “Shouldn’t X be doing that?” (X is my Operations Manager). I gave it a minutes thought and said “yes, but I love premises management, it’s my favourite part of the job”. That wasn’t my attempt to excuse my over-involvement but just an honest answer. I left my session and began to think about how to do things differently though.

So as we approach the start of the Spring term, (unusually for me) I have made a New Year’s resolution. This is unusual because I generally make them on my birthday in May or at the start of a school year. Anyway, I digress. Premises Management is the last slice of the pie that I have been hanging on to. I’ve managed to step back from my instinct to be hands on in all other aspects of my role so my resolution is to complete the set. I’ve put a meeting in the diary to talk this through with my Ops Manager in the first week of term. I’m sure she will be pleased that I will stop getting involved and finally leave her to do her job.

It feels like I’ve cleared a huge amount of space in my head that will allow me to focus on my wider projects. I have several whole school strategies that I am leading on and I can now carve out more time to dedicate to my planning and execution (covid permitting!)

If nothing else, I love that on my SBL journey I feel like I am constantly evolving and growing. It may sound like such a simple step: “delegate more”. I knew I needed to do it and it just took a simple, non-judgemental question to prompt me to stop and think.

I’m looking forward to the new term starting and I have a lovely new notebook ready to come along with me on the journey 😉

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