Doing the Dirty Work, Feeling Feminine, and A Lesson in Balance
Spring weather is finally here in New Jersey, despite all this rain, and it's meant a chance to tackle our backyard. When we bought the house two years ago, we were so happy because the owners took such great care of the inside. We're talking polished hardwoods, custom kitchen cabinets, special high speed internet connection.
But the outside is another story. Nearly two years in this house and we're still weeding and digging and replanting. Our outdoor space is finally starting to be something we're proud of. Though I will say there's still a lot of work to be done.
Whenever we're outside working, I wear the grungiest work clothes. Like I'm embarrassed to run to Wawa for a hoagie because they're gross. But there's no way I'm crawling through dirt in my new jeans.
After a day working outside, it's feels so nice to clean up and pull out my feminine spring wardrobe. Lately I've been gravitating to simple details like this sweet peplum eyelet top and my Studio DIY ice cream clutch in the prettiest shade of pink. The contrast between weekend mornings in the dirt and weekend afternoons really has me thinking about the idea of balance.
Finding balance in my life is a struggle lately. Honestly, I think balance is always a struggle at this point in your life. In my early twenties I felt like balance was a whole lot easier. Work and weekend were separate and rarely did I think about what was waiting for me on Monday. I know, I was lucky.
Then I became a teacher. Work/life balance is really hard as a teacher. I am always thinking about my students, no matter how hard I try to leave it during the week. There are Sundays spent planning for the next week, papers to grade long into the evening, and always something more I feel like I should be doing.
On Friday I took the day off for a doctor's appointment and to relax since I've been feeling very anxious the last week or so. I ended up spending four hours going back and forth via e-mail dealing with an angry parent over what, ultimately, was a misunderstanding. But it left me feeling sick and shaky and more anxious than actually being at school.
We often praise the hustle and people who seemingly "do it all". But after feeling like that on Friday I realized I need to take a step back. I am serving no one, not my students, not my co-workers, and not myself, by constantly working.
Instead I'm trying to be as balanced as my weekends: leaving time to get cleaned up and feel pretty and leaving time to put on the grungiest pair of jeans and get to work. There are a few things I'm going to try through the rest of the school year to make sure there's a balance between work and relaxing.
Have set "office hours".
With today's culture of being available at almost all hours thanks to email, text, and various apps, it's so easy to get caught in the "instant cycle". My thinking usually goes, well, I'll just check my email so I won't be surprised later. Oh, here's an important email and if I don't answer it RIGHT NOW, I'm going to forget. Then instead of enjoying my down time, I'm sucked back into work.
Instead I'm going to set office hours: a specific time of the day when work gets my attention. That can mean anything from replying to emails to grading papers to cutting out paper donuts for my new door decor. But once the set time runs out, it all gets shut down, no matter what I'm in the middle of. It's not life or death; it can wait.
Use an agenda and stick to it.
Nick can probably tell you but I'm a planner addict. I LOVE the look and feel of a brand new planner. SO many things will get accomplished! But somewhere down the line I stop using it and start just doing things as they come up. Sure, things get taken care of, but it feels like it's always a crazy frenzy of activity or nothing at all.
Instead it's time to get serious about mapping out my time in an agenda. Each day I'm going to have some planning time to look at the day, the week, and the month and map out the tasks. I'm great at planning out a day for twenty-four nine year olds so I know I can plan and balance my own days.
Another thing I'd like to do it use some sort of online component since I'm usually on my computer at school. I've heard great things about Asana and I've used Wunderlist. Anyone have a recommendation for an online "agenda/planner" that will help me stick to my plan?
Value my personal time.
Starting out as a teacher, I wanted to be the best. I wanted to be the teacher who does it all. Who had the best, most elaborate lessons. Who replied to a parent email flawlessly in a moment's notice. Who hustled harder to make her classroom the best.
Now I'm a little bit more seasoned. Being the best teacher doesn't come from doing it all and being on 24/7. As I mentioned before, it's a quick way to burn out, stress, and anxiety.
My students don't come to school wondering if I replied to their mom's email at 10pm; they want a smiling face and a bright good morning. They want a teacher who will sit and listen to their story rather than be an exhausted zombie. A good teacher isn't run into the ground with nothing left to give.
In order to do that, I have to value my personal time. Instead of telling myself that my personal projects (like this blog) are just something extra and can get shoved aside, it should be a priority. I'm happier and feel healthier when I spend time doing things for me and not work.
I'm committed to making the mindset shift that personal time is valuable time. That even though I'm not actively working on work, I'm getting ahead anyway. I'm making sure I'm rested, relaxed, and able to tackle work challenges when it's time.