Advice hub

remaining emails one by one ■ Completion – empty inbox!

You’re my favourite waste of time Refl ect on your own working practice too. Have you become someone else’s time thief because you are always procrastinating? Have you developed habits you need to unpick? Try completing some of the activities in Julie Cordiner’s fantastic book Productivity for School Business Professionals. The jist of it is that if you invest in yourself and improve your own productivity, you will reap the rewards.

Eliminating waste You’ve probably heard of the technique ‘just in time’, which aims to increase effi ciency and decrease stocked inventory by moving materials into position just before they are needed. You may also have heard of ‘lean project management’. Japanese manufacturers – Toyota, in particular – embedded these methodologies after World War II, and they have become widely used today. Lean thinkers focus on how they can remove unnecessary effort and unused resources, identifying seven types of waste (see box, right). Some types of lean

methodology also refer to the waste of under-utilised skills or brainpower, where skilled

employees are doing unskilled work. This feels like the saddest one of all. Look at the working practices

of your team. Are they using any resources, including time, that do not create value for your school? A quick internet search for a waste-spotting template could help you identify areas of waste that you can then eliminate. You could trial it on yourself fi rst, so you can understand what you are looking for on your ‘waste walk’. Some waste may be just waste that

you can do little about. However, you may identify time wasted due to overburdening and unreasonable expectations. It is these areas you need to tackle – starting obviously with the quick wins! What is the root cause of the bottlenecks you’ve identifi ed? How can you alleviate the points of congestion? Solutions might include:

■ Reviewing processes: Do they meet your current needs? Have some aspects been superseded? ■ New ways of working: Try using Google Forms to populate spreadsheets (my team used this for teacher supply requests and sped up the whole process!) ■ Using prioritisation matrices: Search online for a prioritisation matrix template that you can adapt to share with your team. ■ Chunking time in the day: Hopefully, you have experienced


■ Transportation Sending unnecessary emails to a wide group of recipients, or having to resend emails as a result of someone’s poor email management; inefficient paper trails. ■ Inventory Keeping data longer than necessary, meaning it takes longer to sift through it. ■ Motion Delays in utilising the required digital resources because of lost usernames/passwords, issues with broadband speed and switching applications within a task, logging in and out. ■ Waiting Waiting for approvals further up the chain to start a process. ■ Over-production Providing functions, features or services that the school doesn’t require. ■ Over-processing Including extra features and unnecessary details, or levels of approval that are surplus to requirements. ■ Defects Missed deadlines and using more resources then necessary.

‘One of the most important soft skills you can have is figuring out how to deal with a high volume of email. And the only way to do this is to put some kind of system in place that’s simple and repeatable, and is going to allow you to have an actual life outside of email’ Merlin Mann, creator of Inbox Zero

that satisfying feeling of ‘being in the zone’, as well as the joy that comes with completing a particularly challenging piece of work, or speeding through a to-do list. You can create more of this positive energy simply by chunking up your day into sections where you work on particular activities, such as completing challenges or focusing only on your to-do list. Scheduling tasks based on your

attention levels is useful: if you know you work best in the afternoon on in-depth tasks, try to schedule your day accordingly. Creating a more time-effi cient

workplace will increase everyone’s sense of worth. This isn’t just about getting more things done in a day. You may feel that you don’t have time to do a waste walk or read a book about productivity – but I would urge you to steal back some time for yourself!

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