Educators work hard. I’ve lived with educators for 43 years and have been one for 22. I know many people in other professions. I can confidently say that educators work hard while at school and also from home. Sometimes they take that work home and other times it just shows up. Figuring out how to balance that work with being an exemplary member of their family is something I know many educators struggle with.
There seems to be a big push for “self-care” recently. I have nothing against the term or thought process. But I’ve always connected with the term “balance.” I haven’t needed a boost in self-esteem, to go do something for myself, or a reminder of what my needs are. The bigger struggle for me has been to maintain a healthy balance between the demands of my job and my role in our family.
Do I attend the board meeting or my daughter’s basketball game? Should I finish the last set of report cards or pick my son up from daycare for once this week? Since I have 3 committee meetings this week will my spouse have to wake the kids up and get them to school alone? If I take an hour to read through all my school emails tonight will I miss reading to my kids at bedtime? If I just stay at school another hour I can get the lesson plans done for next month but will I make it for my son’s choir concert?
Question after question. Dilemma after dilemma. Just choose family first, right? Seems easy. Well, then you have guilt for leaving school while there is still work to be done. You worry about the email you saw on your phone but didn’t respond to it. It’s not that easy. It also doesn’t help me for someone to tell me to be balanced or to practice self-care. That may work for others. I need specific and intentional strategies that hold me accountable for making a change in how I operate.
In my 22 years, I’ve gotten better at finding the appropriate balance. I don’t have it all figured out and there are phases where I’m out of balance. But I’ve certainly improved. The biggest reason I’ve improved is that I’ve had dozens of teachers sit in front of me and share that they were also struggling. I didn’t always have the answer but we worked on it together. We stumbled upon some strategies that made us feel better, more balanced. It hasn’t been due to a change in mindset but instead implementing those specific strategies.
I’m going to share eight with you and maybe they can help you with this neverending struggle. Some of them I’ve used myself and others I have worked with teachers to implement. Here are my 8.
1. Early riser or stay late? – I believe you must make a choice. You will not be able to sustain the marathon of a year or a career if you come a couple hours before school and stay a few hours later. Choose one or the other.
2. The power of NO – You can’t be on every committee or attend every event. All educators need to be able to say no when it tilts their balance away from home and family. If necessary, write out a list of all the things you have volunteered to do. If that list is too long, decide what must stay and what could go. Or, keep a list of the things you are asked to do and see what the balance of yes to no is for you.
3. Organizing your daily to-do list. I’m a to-do list kind of person, always have been. I started to structure my list differently, knowing that it never truly ends and therefore leaves me feeling unsuccessful. The top half of my list is separated into 3 categories, “today,” “later,” and “extra.” Only those truly today things make the today list. Those are the things I really can’t leave without doing. “Later” is likely tomorrow or this week and “extra” are those big-picture items I just need more time to think about. This process has allowed me to keep everything on the list, but organize it in a way where I can feel successful while viewing what lies ahead.
4. Ask yourself these 3 questions – When you start to feel unbalanced or aren’t sure how the next decision will impact your balance, ask yourself these 3 questions. Think, process, and reflect before deciding to take something else on.
- Will doing this serve my family?
- Does this feel right in my heart?
- Will doing this serve God/faith/your beliefs?
5. Honor Friday – Start your weekend early or at the very least on time. Honor and celebrate Friday in a way that allows you to capture that first night of the weekend. Keep next to your desk a “check-out” time for Fridays and see if it matches your expectations.
6. 1 leave early or arrive late day each week – Put it into your calendar. Hold yourself accountable to it. Spend that extra time ensuring you stay balanced.
7. 1 weekend day of no school – Checking email and working on schoolwork happens at home, all the time. Choose Friday night, Saturday, or Sunday and share with your family that you will not do it on at least that time each weekend.
I’d love to hear from you on what things you’ve tried to help you with balance!