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Protecting your “me time” as an educator

by | Balance for Educators

This week’s bite size balance tip is about protecting your “me time” from all the tasks that we so often get inundated with from our work as educators.

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I’m sure that at one time or another, we have all experienced having to bring work home with us.

Last week, I posted a reel (watch it here), that said: You don’t have to take work home all the time in order to be a great teacher.

I know, that’s tough sometimes – we often tell ourselves the story that we have to or are supposed to take work home with us. We may even start to believe the story that if we want to be great teachers, we have to take work home with us.

But that just isn’t true.

First, let’s acknowledge that the way that we protect our time is going to be different for each one of us. You may remember from last week, I talked about all of the different scenarios that may interfere with our “me time” – the daily responsibilities we have: being a parent, taking care of aging parents, and the list goes on.  Some of us may have other passions and additional jobs, like me being a balanced life mentor to educators as well as a yoga teacher and mindfulness coach. Not to mention that I’m the primary caregiver for my aging mother.

I’ve had to learn how to balance all the parts of my life and still be a great teacher to my students and a great colleague to the other educators at my middle school.

Given that we all have different responsibilities, it also means there isn’t one quick fix to protect our “me time”. What works for me personally, might not work for you.

Today however, I wanted to share with you two strategies to incorporate into your life, so that you can leave school at school and not bring home work with you all the time. We deserve time away from our work when we leave for the day or the weekend.

The two strategies that I’ll share about today are:

  • Intentional Organizing/Time Blocking
  • Setting Boundaries

Let’s begin with Intentional Organizing:

Alongside all of this, there may be times that we want to bring work home because it helps us to feel less stressed or there might be times that we’re staying after a little bit. That’s our prerogative and our choice.  It’s important to recognize that we’ve made that choice.

Here’s what I do when I have the intention to get things done without taking them home:

I use a block of time to accomplish a specific task during my school day.

I stay committed to not multitasking. Multitasking, like checking email while also doing other tasks, means we’re being pulled in lots of directions and not actually focusing on the task at hand. This leads to being less productive and efficient with our time.

When you choose to organize your time, you could choose to make a commitment to either go into school early, or stay just a little bit later every now and again.  Or, if you have a planning period, use that time to do as much as you can.  Ultimately, let what you can accomplish there be enough.

Now let’s talk about Setting Boundaries: 

This is a hard one for a lot of us. But let’s look at it like a practice. Something we can work on, every day.

Here’s what that looks like for me:

I don’t have my email on my phone. And I even set boundaries around checking my personal email. There are certain times of the day that I’ll check it.

You can also have conversations about your boundaries with both your students and colleagues.

I teach middle school, so my students are older, and I realize that it might be a different conversation with younger students. Here’s an example related to giving feedback to students, which I know often piles up for us, as educators:

“You all need time to get your work completed, right? And sometimes, you need people to be patient and understanding with you sometimes regarding your schoolwork, correct?”  They always respond with a resounding “yes!”

Then I’ll say: “I’m going to work as hard as I can to get your feedback done as soon as I can. But I need you to be patient and understanding with me, too.”   We also talk about them needing work time to figure things out, problem solve,  and practice independently.  Then we may spend a chunk of time like that – all of us working independently, being patient and understanding with one another.

We have to also acknowledge where we are in our careers, too. Depending on your level of experience, boundaries will look different for each of us as educators, as well as how easy or natural it may or may not be to streamline productivity –  and we need to be flexible with that.

Here’s one last example: My sister is also an educator, and she recently posted a video that had two different pictures… one that said: “mom mode” and the other that said: ”teacher mode”.

We all have so many different responsibilities and roles that we play in our everyday lives. Learning how to separate out those roles allows us to be more present when we are in “work mode” or “personal mode.”

Do you have any ideas that you’d like to share about how you protect your “me time”? Tap reply, I’d love to hear from you.

And if you need support in organizing or setting boundaries so that you have more time for yourself and your personal responsibilities, please reach out. Let’s get on a quick 15-minute complimentary call and see how I can best support you.

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I’m Amy

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