Let’s get real clear: There’s no such thing as living a balanced life where you get to perfectly juggle all of the balls in the air with perfect ease. It’s a lie! It’s a myth and it never has and never will exist. We can’t do it all and expect to have it done perfectly.
In the last two years I’ve experimented with the idea of shutting off my teaching brain once I left work. This meant I refused to do any lesson planning or grading at home. ere are a couple of times when I needed to break this rule because of impending deadlines, but I’ve been able to leave hundreds of essays that needed to be graded at work and use my free time during the school day to grade and plan and copy future assignments. It hasn’t always been easy and I’ve tried to guilt myself into taking work home without success. What I learned from this experiment is that I’m now able to enjoy my life outside the classroom more than I’ve ever done before and it’s made a world of difference in my quality of life.
I know this sounds blasphemous but really it’s not. I realized that when I took time to do the things I loved outside of school, my life changed. I no longer dreaded Monday morning because I knew that Monday night meant spending time watching Monday Night Football—and quilting. Interjecting various fun activities into my work week helped me focus on school while I was there and I no longer dreaded dragging home stacks of assignments to grade. Of course it took longer to grade essays, but I was able to assign shorter ones that focused only on the specific skills I wanted my students to master. Doing this changed the quality of my life, and it can do the same for you.
Three things you can do today to create a more balanced life:
- Put your wants, needs and desires at the top of the list. Be selfish for once without feeling guilty. I’m reminded of this every time I board a plane and the flight attendant tells me to put on my oxygen mask first. If your self-love tank is low how can you give freely to others what you can’t give to yourself? Realize that it’s okay to ask for help and that doing so doesn’t make you a horrible person or an incompetent teacher. It just makes you an honest person who wants to set clear priorities.
- Make a list of your top five areas of focus. What’s most important to you? Which areas of your life give you the most pleasure? Then look at how you prioritize your time to see if you are truly living up to your list.
- If your list isn’t congruent with how you really want to live, you get to change it. How can you spend less time doing work at home and more time doing things you love with the people you care about most?
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