Teaching is overwhelming. The only thing that exceeds the workload are the expectations we place on ourselves. We get sick in the holidays because not even our immune system knows when to take a day off during the school term. We do a thousand jobs on one salary. It’s exhausting.
This year, I haven’t been teaching. My well-being has drastically improved and I work far more effectively. Here’s a few tips that have helped me along the way, which might’ve helped me as a teacher.
1. Everybody ISN’T watching.
You send an email to Michelle about a student in her care group who walked out of class 5 minutes before the end of school. She doesn’t get back to you until recess the next morning in the staff room when she mentions, “I saw the email you sent. I’ll follow it up tomorrow.” Do you…
A. Wonder what the heck she has been doing with all of her spare time?
B. Start considering the path that student might be going down as a serial walk-out-of-class-early offender?
C. Consider all of the other things Michelle has to do other than reply to your emails at the drop of a hat.
D. Take out the Christmas card you placed in her pigeonhole earlier that morning.
Always choose D. Put it in the recycling and give up Christmas cards as a whole, nobody has time for that.
Or, don’t do any of those, they’re all ridiculous. Lower your expectations of Michelle and MORE IMPORTANTLY lower the expectations you perceive others have of you. That is to say, you probably don’t have nasty thoughts about why Michelle hasn’t replied, it probably hasn’t even crossed your mind since hitting “send”. The truth is that we assume the best of people far more often than we assume the worse. In the same way that you’re not anxiously waiting for a reply from Michelle, people aren’t thinking about what’s taking you so long to reply to them. They simply don’t care.
People in the real world don’t work outside of work hours. They also get to their emails when they have time (work-time). Be the change you want to see and don’t send emails outside of work hours. You’ll notice that people won’t notice, which is great.
You can’t multitask. Stop kidding yourself. Rather, do things with high skill. High skill requires deliberate focus. Do one thing at a time. Want to get a few things done? Do short tasks first. Has a short task just become a big task? Table it for later and knock off a few short tasks first. Do the little things, sharply and with purpose. Then, pause.
Go get a drink of water.
Text your mum.
Get back into it.
Reply to your Mum.
Take that big task with two hands, take a massive bite and chew hard. This is what you now have time and thinking space to focus on.
Pausing is a conscious decision to walk away, take a breath and jump back in again. For me, this protects myself from the crazed human being I can turn into when I’m knee-deep in a spreadsheet or going overboard with the formatting of a PowerPoint. Future you will thank you and so will your mum. Just pause.
One more thing: Don’t leave the short tasks for the end of the day. Leaving work with many short tasks unfinished creates big stress. One big task left is not so overwhelming.
3. Shut down your laptop.
And clean your desk.
Just like making your bed, clean your desk. Close your browser. Shut your computer down. Don’t put it to sleep or just close the lid; actually shut it down. Then, boot it back on.
Marie Kondo your workspace and throw away those sticky notes on your desk.
Having so many tabs open in your browser such that you can only see the icons is bonkers. Hit close and your browser will prompt you to rethink your decision if you’re going to lose anything unsaved. Declutter your environment to help you focus. You need to focus.
Tips for becoming more effective:
- Don’t email outside of work hours; Nobody cares.
- Start the day with short tasks. Then, text your mum.
- Marie Kondo your laptop. Close ‘dem tabs.