Wednesday 16 September 2015

Life + Work = Balance?

Teaching is a job in which it is possible to fill every single hour of everyday.  Earlier this year, I wrote this post about how I realised it was my fault that I was working all the time.  Not long after writing that, things got on top of me and I ended up at the doctors.  Thankfully, I didn't miss any school time but it made me realise that rather than just reflecting on the choices I've made, I need to change some of them.  I need to transform my work/life balance into a life/work balance.  I need to 'work to live' not 'live to work'.  I read Andy Tharby's post about 'becoming a happier teacher' and this made me consider how I could make choices to bring the time I spend on "life" closer to the time I spend on "work". 

An ex-colleague of mine, who is also a wonderful friend, started working with me during my NQT year.  We were both getting married and working every hour that we possibly could.  When we weren't working, we were wedding planning.  That school year was bonkers and then the following year OfSTED (booooo!) turned up.   The next year, she had a baby.  I don't have kids and recently she gave me some brilliant advice about my life/work balance (as I am now calling it).  She explained how she cannot imagine how we filled all that time with work because she manages to complete enough work for her job and  have time with her children; quality time.  Gently, she encouraged me to consider what life would be like with kids - of course I would make time.  Her point was that I should make that time now. But not make it for kids; make it for me.  

I am trying some new things this year to improve my life/work balance and general well-being:
  • Removing work emails on my phone - This has made an enormous difference. I remember sleepless nights in the last few years because of something I have read at 11pm after accidentally opening my emails on my phone and loading my work messages. 
  • Removing all phone notifications - I discovered how freeing this is when on holiday.  I turned off all notifications to avoid the massive phone bill from abroad.  When I returned home, I didn't turn any of them back on and loved it.  Notifications were coming through from Twitter and Facebook but it was the news notifications which were probably affected me most because they are rarely positive distractions during the day.  It's so refreshing to see a blank screen nowadays - I'll never go back! 
  • Drinking caffeine-free tea and coffee - I find caffeine not only reduces the quality of my sleep but also puts me on edge.  Switching to caffeine-free was easy and I am loving lemon and ginger tea as well. 
  • Burning candles, especially lavender - A friend recommended lavender for relaxation and I've found candles instantly make me feel relaxed and chilled. 
  • Trying to stop work at 8pm - I say "trying" because sometimes I know I will need to work later than 8pm.  Generally, though, I am turning the laptop off at 8pm and stopping work.  Last Thursday I found myself marking at 8:15.  It may sound silly but I stopped exactly where I was and stuck to my guns.  I marked the books the next morning and it didn't affect anything else in my teaching.  That proved to me what my friend had suggested - you can still do a good job with time away from work. 
  • One set of books home...maximum - In my experience, two sets never get marked.  If two sets need to be marked, I'll do the most important/urgent set.
  • Not checking Twitter/Facebook in bed - Like teaching, social networks can fill every hour of every day if we let them.  I'm trying to use them downstairs only so that when I head to bed my head is clear and ready to dream. 
  • Reading before bed - Reading takes me away to another place and keeps my mind firmly on something other than school; even if my choice of genre is crime/thriller!  I try to make time to read every night before bed even if it's just ten minutes reading one chapter. 
  • Going to bed on time - Sleep is important so I want to make it a priority.  I am trying to get to bed around 10pm so I can aim for eight hours every night.  That means recording later TV shows to watch at another (earlier) time! 
  • Prioritising exercise - Although after a day of work I just want to sit and chill, I am making sure that I get to my netball matches no matter how I feel.  I always feel better after playing so I'm forcing myself to go every week! 
  • Adult Colouring - Yes.  I've joined the bandwagon.  We'll see how it goes! 
I will update here and on Twitter as the school year continues but the overall aim is to be healthier, happier and more efficient.

Sunday 6 September 2015

#Summer10 Debrief

1) Get better and relax - Things are still not perfect and the summer holidays hasn't had the curing effect that I thought it would. However, it has been good to not have to worry about work.  I'm still taking things one day at a time and I'm staying positive! 

2) Read...alot - I have definitely managed to do this! I'll include some of the books I've read below and a mini-review! Please note: None of these books are suitable for children.

Someone recommended Rachel Abbot to me as I like crime/thriller books.  This was superb and exactly what I enjoy reading - it was fast-paced, easy-to-read and unpredictable.  It turns out this is the author's fourth book so I look forward to reading the other three.

I had no idea what this book would be like but I was recommended it and so downloaded it onto my Kindle.  The best description I can give of it is that it's like Room by Emma Donoghue but at the other end of life.  Written from the perspective of a forgetful older lady who is trying to find her friend, Elizabeth.  I would say it was a charming read but not as fast-paced and exciting as some of the others that I read this summer.

This was quite simply a cracking read.  This book starts with a tragic hit-and-run in which a child is killed before spiraling down some surprising story lines!  I can't say much more but it was a brilliant book.

I was recommended this by a lot of people who said it was exactly my type of genre and they were right.  When trying to persuade my husband to watch the movie with me, I described it as 'like 50 First Dates but after the happy ever after'.  Christine wakes up everyday with no memory beyond her early twenties.  It was a great psychological thriller! The movie was also good but very different.

The Letter was a very easy-going holiday read about a woman who discovers a 40-year-old letter in a pocket of a jacket.  She tries to trace its owner whilst battling her own struggles. It wasn't life-changing but was a fairly-good read.

I've also read books 5 and 6 in the Roy Grace series by Peter James.  I love his books as they are in the style of James Patterson but are set in and around Brighton, a town local to me!

3) Read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg - I am half-way through this book and absolutely loving it. It's a must-read for all women and Sheryl's message is that we should lean into our careers and not let the fear of rejection or failure stop us from pushing ourselves to the limit.  

4) Catch up with friends - Thankfully I have managed to get out and about and see quite a few of the friends that I hadn't seen much in the final few weeks of term.

5) Try yoga or pilates - I managed some morning stretches (pilates-style) and some water Zumba while on holiday in Crete.  

6) Tidy up & clear out - The house is still a mess but a few important things have been sorted.  Getting there...slowly but surely! 

7) Fall back in love with running - Hmmmm - I haven't done so well with this one. The closest I've come is stewarding a 10k race at the back of the runners.  This will continue to be an aim for this term! 

8) Family time - I've had lots of this which has been lovely. 

9) Bake / Cook / Make - I've had the chance to fix and alter some clothes to make them wearable and have done a bit of cooking. 

10) IT Logins - I have really started to do this and have got quite far.  I've also managed to delegate some of this and my final step is out of my hands so this is pretty much done!