work-life balanceBrittany Viklund (Toll) is back with one of our favorite post from the TeacherPop archives. In her piece, she’s tackling the ever-elusive work-life balance, and some practical steps to keeping things on an even keel.

Whether you’re a first-year or veteran teacher, sustaining a healthy work-life balance is no easy feat. But finding that balance is essential for ensuring that our energies are utilized in the most appropriate ways—and our end-of-year goals are met.

So what does this look like in action? While it’s going to be unique to each person, I can give you some suggestions for small (or big!) changes, so the second half of the school year is not a sprint to the finish line, but a marathon of strategy and pursuit. Here are my suggestions for seven ways to establish and maintain your work-life balance.

Start by assessing the proficiency of your work-life balance. Document all of your actions and the time spent on those in a day, set of days, or a week. Capture every moment of your day. It only takes a few seconds if you keep a Post-It pad with you or use your Notepad app. I know it seems like an extra step, but by doing it, you’ll be able to learn a lot. Are you spending countless hours lesson planning one class each night? Or maybe there is a lot of “dead time” that could be utilized during the day? Roll up the percentages of your day that you spend doing specific activities and see what tasks take up more time than you would have guessed.

Start prioritizing. Often times when I feel like my work and life are out of synch, I can attribute it to my lack of prioritizing. I would simply start at the top of my to-do list and then be confused as to why I felt I couldn’t get anything done, why the things that were most important or urgent were keeping me up until the wee hours. Learn to list your tasks and plan your days by prioritizing both your work and lifestyle actions. Wikihow has a quick and easy tool that has saved me a few times when I’m overwhelmed with things to do.

Figure out what you need. Sometimes we become so entrenched in our work that we forget what makes us the dynamic people we are. Make a list of the things you love doing: hobbies, activities, etc. Next figure out which of these things mean the most to you, and consider these your non-negotiables. If the president of the United States can make time to exercise each week, then we can surely make time for the yoga mat.

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 in life, too. I love to get ahead with work on Sundays. By creating 90-minute shifts of work and lifestyle actions, my day doesn’t feel so daunting, and my work time is considerably more productive in shorter snippets with grocery store adventures and exercise sandwiched in between.

Establish a routine. Establishing a routine will help you ensure that your non-negotiables don’t go overlooked and you are proactive about sustaining your energy towards the end of the year.

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.

Slow down. Acting with urgency toward our classroom goals does not mean spinning our wheels 24/7 at a rapid pace. Like I said, prioritization is key. Figure out where your time renders the biggest bang for your buck.  I try to be very intentional about scheduling time in my day to make and sit down for dinner. It even lives in my Outlook calendar. Speeding through meals can be a huge contributor to stress and the reason our lives feel imbalanced. I keep the words “WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER” on a Post-It note in my work space; it’s surprising how helpful it has become.

For more excellent life tips from Brittany, visit her Top 10 Ways to Spark Your Creativity.  

Photo credit: Flickr