As we head back to school, we are once faced with the stress of trying to balance our work-life with our home-life. We all agree that teaching can be stressful. With increasing demands on our professional field, the subject of wellness is so important. Student attitudes and general moods toward school are greatly influenced by their teacher’s attitudes and passions for teaching. To create a positive classroom experience, we have to find ways to manage our stress and find balance in our daily lives.Below are our top 11 tips for helping you find that often elusive, work/life balance.
1.Self-discipline is key. Self-discipline is key to finding balance between your work-life and your home-life.Organize, plan and be as efficient as possible with schoolwork so you can be with your family or friends when you’re not at school. Schedules are your friend. The juggling is tough, but with self-discipline, it is possible to find the time to do the things you love.
2. Lean on your resources.Don’t be afraid to ask your spouse, family and/or friends for help. No one can be expected to do it all, but having that love and support can help ease your mind and your workload. Teacher-parent guilt will happen; just remember you are doing the best you can both at home and at school. Don’t be afraid to arrange extra help for around the house. Consider hiring a neighborhood kid to mow your lawn once or twice a month. Or, consider a babysitting swap with a fellow teacher. Even just a little bit of extra help can help ease your stress and free you up for some family or personal time.
3. Limit work at home.Balance work and family by setting limits for how much work you bring home with you. Give yourself space to enjoy your time with your family and friends, even if you plan for a coupleof evenings or one weekend day “off” of schoolwork. You might set yourself up for success for the week by spending one late night each week doing your prep work: gathering materials, making copies and other prep work. Remember, you give everything you have to other people’s children 10 hours a day; honor time that can be just for your family, friends and/or you.
4. Work efficiently. Time working should be as efficient as possible. After all, the more we accomplish, the more we can give ourselves permission to shorten our work time. Here are some tips to help you work more efficiently:
- Maximize Your time:If you can, grade while your students are doing work. Save your lesson plans in an electronic format so that they are easy to revise and reuse year after year.
- Break your work time into chunks.After you have prioritized your work, block your time into 90-minute work chunks with breaks to do the things you love or need to do to feel accomplished. I love to get ahead with work on Sundays. By creating 90-minute shifts of work and lifestyle actions, the day doesn’t feel so daunting. Work time is considerably more productive in shorter snippets.
- Utilize free tools to help maximize your time. There are a wealth of apps that can help save you time and be more efficient in your work. Some favorites include:Zipgrade, Google Classroom, and Socrative.
5. Avoid taking on too much.Learn to Say NO.Saying no can be tough, but a mindset shift can help. Often, when we accept a responsibility we know we should decline, we worry that we are going to hurt someone’s feelings or somehow disappoint someone. As teachers, it’s better to do your job well, rather than take on loads and collapse under it. We MUST remind ourselves that we have to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.
6. Prioritize and don’t procrastinate.Decide what needs doing immediately – don’t waste time on things that aren’t urgent. For everything else, seta reminder. When you’ve worked out what needs to be done, break down jobs down into smaller ones so they’re more manageable.
7. Don’t worry if everything doesn’t get done.Positive thinking about what you’ve achieved is better than being negative about everything you have left to finish. Look at it this way: The math tests will still be there to grade tomorrow, just like the dishes in the sink.
8. Find and do what works best for your family.Find a routine that fits with your family life. Whether it’s working while your children are sleeping, or staying at school a bit later so you don’t have to bring as much work home, do what works best for your family. Also, be sure to talk to the others in your house about their feelings towards your workload. If you have to miss a family evening, because of school events, help them to understand why.
9. Carve Out Time for Non-negotiables.One of the reasons it can be so hard to maintain some semblance of balance in our lives as teachers is that we have not carved out time for things that should take priority over others. Consider writing a list of things that are most important in your family/personal life and then do the same for your school life. What roles and responsibilities are most important? Decide which of these are truly on your list of non-negotiables and stick to making time for those items.
10. Strive for improvement, not perfection.With each year, comes new initiatives for most teachers that can leave you always feeling like you’re scrambling, only to move onto something else the next year. You may never “crack the code” on the perfect work/life balance, and there will be plenty of shifts each year. However, make it a priority to work toward as much balance as possible.
11. Make time to unplug.For some of us this may be really difficult (guilty!), but the feeling of ALWAYS being plugged in may be the source of a work-life imbalance. Schedule a day each month where you are completely unplugged from your phone (or any other tech sources that may be keeping you from the present moment). Make sure you plan ahead, and capitalize on those lovely school holidays or weekends. Feeling a little anxious about this idea? Start with a half day to see how it works. It won’t be as bad as we all think. The most challenging point is probably making time for you. Even if it’s just taking a 20 minute walk , give yourself a few minutes to breathe and unwind, without the interference of technology.
Looking for more tips and tricks to find that elusive work/life balance? Enroll in Learners Edge Course 5792: Refocus & Recharge: Strategies for Finding Balance in Teaching and explore a wealth of strategies teachers can enlist to attain professional and personal balance, avoid teacher burnout, and recharge.
Sources: Tips adapted from:
- Anderson, M. (2010). The Well-Balanced Teacher. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
- Viklund, B. (2015, March 7). 7 Ways to Find Your Work-Life Balance. Retrieved August 10, 2016, from http://teacherpop.org/2015/03/7-ways-to-find-your-work-life-balance/
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