ACHIEVING A WORK-LIFE BALANCE
While 2020 has finally come to an end, we have a new year ahead of us that is filled with new opportunities and challenges. As we start to navigate our way through the remainder of the school year, it is important to remember that we need to focus our energy not only on our students and the classroom, but also on ourselves. It can be incredibly easy to forget to take time for ourselves, as we are excited to get back to teaching. Staying engaged and keeping our performance up is going to be critical to finishing this year on a strong note.
Work-life balance is all about organizing yourself and managing your time effectively so that you are able to be fully engaged in whatever it is that you are doing, be it work or play. The time spent between work and “fun” is not going to be even and it will never be. The issue is not having too much work or even too little – it is how we schedule the time we do have. We need to experiment to see what works best for us and to figure out when we are high-energy versus low-energy to get our tasks completed. For some people, that means getting to school earlier; for some, that means staying an hour after; it means doing whatever works for you and your family.
Step one is to take a moment each day to reflect on how you feel. Some days you may be nervous or annoyed, while other days you may even be bored or angry. Some emotions are more draining than others, even if you are feeling happy and excited! Assessing your emotions and how you are feeling is the best way to start to recognize when your energy levels might be low.
The challenge that anyone looking for balance in their work and home life faces is energy. To be fully engaged at work and at home, you must have the energy to do so. In The Power of Full Engagement, the authors discuss four specific types of energy: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. You need to find ways to conserve and renew all of these energies in order to perform at your highest ability and be present for the things you need and want to be present for.
When it comes to physical energy – we need to be sleeping enough (7-8 hours), drinking enough water, and exercising. If you feel fatigued, those are simple things you can do to feel better right away! Emotional energy is trickier, so as I mentioned earlier, check in with yourself daily. What is important here is that we are able to evaluate and then maintain our emotions. For some people that includes deep breathing and for others that means getting out and finding an enjoyable activity. Mental energy is fueled by our physical energy. We need to be able to concentrate and focus. Our brains take up almost a quarter of the oxygen we bring in, so thinking takes a lot of energy! If we are tired, we will have trouble focusing and then we will be affected negatively with emotions of frustration. In my classroom I have brain breaks and use a free Chrome extension called “Move it.” Working more is not necessarily better. Lastly, there is spiritual energy, which is not whether you believe in God but rather is about what motivates you. What inspires you and makes you work in a meaningful way? Think about what you want from life and how you are getting there. We make our own meaning of life and we all need to have a worthwhile goal.
Loehr, J. & Schwartz, T. (2003). The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. New York, NY: The Free Press.