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Making Time

About three years into my teaching career, I was asked to be part of a panel of educators who spoke to novice teachers who were beginning their induction program. Being a fairly new teacher myself, I felt I had little advice to offer them. Yet, the one piece of truly sage advice I was able to muster up was to take time to get a pedicure, take a nap, or have a glass of wine.

Creating healthy boundaries between work life and personal life can be difficult in a profession where you are emotionally invested in what you are doing and short on time to complete everything that needs to be done. Yet, when we cannot take time to care for ourselves, we are unable to give 100% to our staff, our students, and especially our own families. In Tim Elmore's Habitudes, he uses the images of the starving baker and a gas gauge to depict the leader who does not take time to form healthy boundaries in order to have downtime.

Finding time does not have to come at the expense of doing your job poorly or neglecting tasks. Making simple changes and setting clear boundaries can begin to bring about more opportunities to have guilt-free R&R.

  1. Establish boundaries and stick to them: Determine what time you plan to leave each day. Then, make it a priority to leave at that time. Schedule your meetings within your established time, ensure critical tasks are completed earlier in the day, and find an accountability buddy who will encourage you to leave at your established time. While emergencies will come up that may keep you later, make an effort to leave "on time" during the days that you have control to leave- this will create a healthy balance with the days that you do need to stay late to address an issue, have a meeting, etc.

  2. Avoid procrastinating: Yes, this is easier said than done for those who procrastinate. Determine what tasks you need to get done (for the day, week, etc.) and sort them in order of priority. Getting the tasks done not only generates psychological fulfillment but also lowers your levels of stress because you have a clear plan of action to accomplish the tasks. And, when you don't put off the tasks, you can leave at the time you have determined (see #1) without feeling guilty or dropping the ball on an important deadline.

  3. Avoid checking and responding to emails during personal time: If you are in a position where you are not required to check emails on your personal time, avoid doing this whenever possible. When you are home, be present in what you are doing- be that spending time with your spouse, reading a book, crafting, or watching your son's soccer game-- be there, not distracted by something that may be able to wait until the next work day. Checking emails can result in undue stress, which raises your cortisol levels, which then takes time to return to a state of equilibrium (if the person facing the stress is able to move past the stressor). For those who are in a position in which they are expected to check their emails, set boundaries on the times you will check and respond to work correspondence.

  4. Take time to rest and enjoy the activities and people who bring you joy: Be intentional with your time- carving out (and even officially scheduling) time to rest and enjoy yourself. And, as mentioned above, be present. Avoid distractions that pull you away from your family, book, hike, or whatever it may be that you are doing, and truly enjoy the time you have. Ideally, leave your work at work and allocate evenings and weekends as the time to refuel (This may mean carefully evaluating the time you decide you will leave by, #1, to ensure this is a reality!)

When you are at work, be at work: bring 110% each day, pouring into your staff, students, and their families. Take pride in the work you are completing, do it to the best of your ability, and find joy in the tasks you feel may be menial or cumbersome. But, be intentional with the boundaries you establish in order to set up a healthy relationship between work and personal time- without this boundary, you will burn out, you will make mistakes, you will miss out on opportunities with your own family that you will never be able to get back.


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