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!