Not surprisingly, the phrase ‘time management’ is used frequently in the early years sector; we work in an industry which is infamous for its time constraints with so many practitioners striving to make those precious hours in one day go a little further.
What is ‘time management’?
Simply put, it’s the ability to use one’s time effectively, or productively, especially at work.
A more detailed explanation, taken from Mind Tools, is “the process of organising and planning how to divide your time between different activities. Get it right, and you’ll end up working smarter, not harder, to get more done in less time – even when time is tight and pressures are high.”
Easier said than done, some may say (particularly if you are working in a busy early years setting!) but one thing is certain, time management is a vital skill for early years practitioners and educators who wish to spend more of their working day in a hands-on role with children.
How can I help my team with their time management?
As a room leader, team leader or manager, you can develop yourself and support your fellow team members in improving their time management skills in the following ways:
- Set clear goals and expectations: Clearly communicate the team’s objectives, deadlines, and priorities. When team members have a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished, they can better manage their time and prioritise tasks accordingly. This can be done in regular staff meetings, especially if short-term objectives change quickly, or need to be revisited or refreshed
- Provide training and resources: Offer training or workshops on time management techniques and tools. Share resources such as productivity apps, task management systems, or time-tracking tools that can assist team members in organising their work and improving their efficiency
- Encourage planning and prioritisation: Encourage team members to plan their work in advance. Help them identify and prioritise tasks based on urgency and importance. Supporting them in creating to-do lists or using productivity techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix can assist in effective prioritisation
- Foster open communication: Create an environment where team members feel comfortable discussing their workload, deadlines, and any challenges they may be facing. Encourage open dialogue about time constraints and workload distribution, so that adjustments can be made if necessary
- Delegate tasks effectively: Delegate tasks based on individual strengths and availability. Ensure that the workload is distributed evenly and aligned with team members’ capabilities and current workloads. Delegating tasks appropriately prevents overload and promotes efficient use of time
- Encourage breaks and work-life balance: Remind team members about the importance of taking regular breaks to recharge and maintain focus. Encourage them to establish healthy work-life boundaries and avoid overworking, as it can lead to burnout and decreased productivity in the long run
- Lead by example: Demonstrate good time management practices yourself. Show your team the benefits of effective time management by being organised, meeting deadlines, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Your actions can inspire and motivate team members to improve their own time management skills
- Offer support and feedback: Be available to support team members in their time management efforts. Provide guidance and suggestions when needed and offer constructive feedback to help them refine their approach. Recognise and acknowledge their improvements and successes along the way
Remember, improving time management is an ongoing process and in a busy setting, this can be difficult to maintain – which is why it’s important to encourage a growth mindset within your team and provide continuous support to foster a culture of effective time management.
Now that we’ve explored the importance of helping our team members (and ourselves) with time management to help in our professional life, what are the major benefits of time management when it comes to educating the children in our care?
- Establishing routines: Effective time management helps establish daily routines, providing structure and predictability for our young learners. Routines create a sense of stability and security, helping children understand what is expected of them and reducing anxiety. They learn to anticipate and prepare for different activities, transitions, and responsibilities, which promotes a sense of independence and self-regulation
- Maximising learning opportunities: Time management allows educators to allocate sufficient time for various learning activities, ensuring a balanced and comprehensive curriculum. By organising and prioritising different tasks, practitioners can optimise the time available and create a rich learning environment that covers key developmental areas, such as social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development
- Fostering engagement and attention: Of course, young children have limited attention spans, so effective time management helps maintain their engagement and focus. By planning shorter, age-appropriate activities and incorporating variety, we can prevent children from becoming restless or bored. This ensures that learning experiences remain enjoyable, meaningful, and conducive to optimal learning outcomes
- Helping children to develop their own essential life skills: Time management skills acquired during the early years education lay the foundation for lifelong habits. When children learn to manage their time effectively, they develop self-discipline, organisation, and responsibility. These skills are transferable to other areas of their lives, including academic pursuits, personal relationships, and future careers
- Enhancing productivity: Time management enables educators to make the most of instructional time, ensuring that your setting’s curriculum goals are met. By allocating appropriate time to different learning activities, teachers can cover essential content, assess student progress, provide individualised attention, and facilitate meaningful interactions. This leads to improved productivity and helps children achieve their educational milestones
- Encouraging self-regulation: Time management in early years education encourages children to develop self-regulation skills. They learn to manage their own time, follow schedules, complete tasks independently, and transition between activities smoothly. These skills promote self-control, time awareness, and the ability to plan and organise, which are crucial for long-term academic success and personal development
These are strategies and ideas which do work, and when put in place, will help you and your team get more out of your day. Remember, time management in early years education not only supports routines, maximises learning opportunities, fosters engagement and attention, but also develops essential life skills, enhances productivity, and encourages self-regulation.
By effectively managing time, educators can create an environment that nurtures holistic development and sets children on a path of success in their educational journey and beyond.