Being kind to your future self

The BIG list

  • I have a BIG list of all the tasks I have thought about doing, or been asked to do, and all of the ideas I have had
  • I make sure that I know where to find the list so that I don’t feel I have to act on every idea immediately but can safely store it in my BIG list and find it again later

The small list

  • I keep a small list of things that I am working on now
  • There should not be anything in my small list that is not also in my BIG list
  • I add things to the small list that have upcoming targets or deadlines, or things that I believe will have a quick beneficial impact on me or my business, or that would be fun to do
  • The small list is my to-do list


  • I don’t use my inbox as a to-do list. Each email I receive is either relevant to an item in my BIG list or it creates a new item in my BIG list
  • I try to deal with emails as soon as I can (ideally on the day that they arrive) and then file them in subfolders so that my inbox is empty
  • If my inbox starts to fill up then I have created a subfolder called ‘archive’ and I move them into it. Then I try to get back to dealing with future emails as they arrive
  • If that is all going well then I can move emails back into my inbox from the archive folder and deal with them as if they were new
  • I can always find any of my old emails in my archive folder if I need them


  • I try to have an empty desktop on my computer
  • I have created folders for clients and for specific jobs and I put all the relevant documents into those folders

Remember that planning is work as much as ‘doing’ is work

Remember that administration is work as much as ‘doing’ is work

Financial planning

  • In order to work out how much income your business needs you need to know what expenses there will be
  • Your main expense will probably be your own wages. In order to know how much you need to be paid you need to find out how much you personally need, so you need to find what your personal expenses are.
  • Once you have worked out how much you need to be paid you can start to budget for your business using the same principles
  • Make a list of regular expenses and how often you need to pay them. Multiply monthly expenses by 12, weekly by 52 and daily by 365 to get an annual figure for all of your expenses
  • If you think of something that you haven’t included later on, add it in to your calculations and re-work out how much you need
  • Ideally it would be useful to know how much you need to earn each year, and from that how much you need to earn each month, week and day
  • If you have seasonal (or any other non-regular) earnings then the month, week and / or daily figures may not be of particular use to you

Every day

Financial administration

  • Knowledge is better than ignorance, whether the news is good or bad
  • You need to record all of your income
  • You need to record all of your expenses
  • Having an idea of your regular and one-off income and expenses can then be used to create projections so that you have an idea of what you think is going to happen over the next few days, weeks and months
  • I try to be conservative about income and liberal about expenses: that way I plan for the worst and things are never as bad as I expect
  • Work out how much you need to earn each day, week, month and year (see: Financial Planning)
  • I check my personal and business bank account(s) almost every day and I update any records I have at that point. When I do it every day it takes about five minutes a day. When I put it off for a while it takes a lot longer than five minutes × the number of days that I’ve put it off

General planning

  • I don’t plan to work more than two ‘shifts’ a day: Morning, Afternoon and / or Evening
  • I work out how much time I have available today
  • Then I make a list of things that I’m planning to do today
  • Once I’ve done that I remove anything that does not have a deadline of today and I put it on another list that I can find later
  • Finally I assess how long each task will realistically take
  • For anything that will take longer than 15 minutes, I break it down into smaller tasks
  • Then I repeat the previous two steps
  • I trust that I will get on with this list to the best of my ability and that I can find my alternative list if I finish everything on this list
  • I don’t plan something for every minute of the day. I leave space so that when something else comes up I will have time to do it
  • I don’t add anything to the list unless it is already in my BIG list. If I am tempted to do this I stop what I am doing and add it to my BIG list before I add it to todays list

Time management – Kester Brewin

As some of you will know, one of the things I do in my work as a teacher is act as a union rep. I’m a very very firm believer in the union movement, which isn’t about waving a Trotskyist flag, but is about understanding the power that people have when they act together.

So anyway, following the results of a pretty depressing survey on wellbeing, I put on my flak jacket, booked a meeting with the boss, and decided to pull precisely zero punches. I told her about the people coming to me in tears about stress, about the numerous people considering just giving it all up, about the genuine concerns I have about people’s mental health.

Hard stuff to hear, but it was a positive meeting. One of the things I wanted to share with others in education – and beyond – is something I set out about encouraging people to say no.

What I find myself saying to people more and more is to appreciate that they are an experienced and highly qualified professional, and that, as such, they need to be bold and act, and wrestle back control of their time-management.

So when the line manager throws another huge demand at them, say ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t have the resources to be able to do that right now. Either I need something taking away, or you need to change the timeline, or you need to find another way to get this done – if it really needs doing at all.’

It’s amazing how empowering people have found this, especially if – as united force – people start doing it together. Too often I think teachers act like pupils when they are in meetings with managers – like the culture of the place seeps in. And I say screw that: if the government or institution won’t resource your time, stand up and start saying NO.

Your evenings are your evenings, and your weekends are your weekends. It’s a job, not a religious vocation. There IS a limit on how much of you your employer can demand of your life. Establish that limit, and don’t budge on it. In a situation where recruitment is in crisis, you’ve got the power, so take it.

Next: Roles

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