Happy New Year! As you know, the educator has a completely different annual cycle than the average person. The new year for us is not January 1st, but rather August 1st (or September 1 for the Northeasterners and Canadians) or maybe even later. All that to say that our year starts and ends at very different times than the calendar year. It's a great time to make resolutions and build habits that will sustain you throughout the next ten months of school. A mentor teacher once told me, if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be fully there for your kids.
The following are some productivity and wellness tips I've picked up over the years from rockstar teachers and leaders. Pick and choose what works for you, and get set up to have the best year yet.
1. Bring your lunch. And snacks.
This will save you time at lunch to collaborate with colleagues and give you more control over what you eat. If there is something that you like on the lunch menu, just plan around that. I will always love square pizza. Planning around the food that will fuel you through the day is important. Bagging up snacks for the week so you can grab and go can be a great time saver and can help combat the non-stop sweets that seem to be everywhere in schools.
2. Set out your wardrobe for the whole week.
This is so much better than the night before, because I find I get increasingly exhausted as the week goes on. Teachers make decisions all day, so any that you can eliminate from your routine will save that valuable brain space for the tough stuff that you will inevitably encounter in this profession.
3. Long Term Planning
In whatever way works for you, map out your whole year on your calendar or in your notebook. As you do these plans, make sure they are editable from year to year. Think in terms of Yearly Plans, Monthly Plans, Weekly Plans, and Daily Plans. Your school or system will ask a lot of you in terms of goal-setting and continuous improvement, but it is important to have easily accessible things that work for you. I'm currently obsessed with The Bullet Journal. In the past I have made my goals and plans visible on chart paper or whiteboard, or have held them digitally in Google Drive, Evernote, and Trello. Always be moving toward your yearly goals or even those goals that are 5 or 10 years out. So many of us are in additional degree programs or other professional advancement opportunities, that keeping your goals and plans at front and center is so important not to get caught up in the busyness of things.
4. Stop taking work home.
You don't need to take work home with you. At least, you should do everything in your power not to. My dad always said "Everything takes the amount of time that you give it.". Granted, teacher time is taken up by the actual instruction of students, so how could they catch up on grading, emails, etc? Teachers that don't take work home are usually masters of time. They will get to work early each day, or stay later. They will use every bit of planning period or transition to accomplish small tasks. This one isn't easy for most people, but if you think about it there have been times in your life that made you keep work at work. Maybe you had a child, or enrolled in a time consuming masters or doctoral program. I bet during that time you found ways to contain your workload within the confines of the 40 hour week. Try to keep that up, it will give you the energy you need to make each day better.
These are just four resolutions that have made a big difference for me in my education career- but I am curious to hear from you. What resolutions are you making for this school year?
Happy New Year to the teachers and educators who are changing the world every day. 2016-17, let's do this.
Each New Years it is so tempting to make ambitious plans for the year. Lofty New Years resolutions haven’t worked well for me in the past. I can’t tell you what last year’s resolution was because I likely stopped doing it in February or March. There is so much noise about how to improve yourself and our newsfeeds are filled with life hacks and productivity tips. We are bombarded with resources on how to live better and at this time of year there is pressure to make big goals and to stick to them.
This year I propose a new kind of resolution. For each month of 2016 I’m selecting a focus area. In this focus area I will set goals and actions around learning and improving myself in that area. For January I’m going to focus on finance. I spent a good deal of time in 2016 improving my financial literacy, creating budgets and long term planning. In looking over my post-holiday Mint.com trends I can tell that I still have some work to do. this month I will be learning more about managing my finances and sharing what I learn with you. Other potential focus areas could be: home improvement, organization, fitness, career, family. You will know what you need to prioritize.
Here are some ideas for getting focused on a specific area, and some action steps you can take to make the most of each month.
1) Learning: Reading books, listening to podcasts, taking a Udemy, Skillshare, or Coursera course
2) Measuring: Is there a number you can reach to create goals for yourself? For finance, that might be: Save x amount of money or make x amount of side income.
3) Habits: Is there something you could do each day or week that would help you improve in your focus area?
4) Accountability: Is there a friend or family member that you know is working on the same thing? Check in with one another along the way.
5) Journal: Keep track of what you are working on by journaling about it or keeping up with data (If you are working on time management, track your time for two weeks. For finance, see where your $ is going)
At the end of the month you will have learned something new and potentially created a new habit that will last throughout the year. You will stick to your resolutions without giving up on them because they will be manageable. 31 days is much easier than 365 days. I look forward to what we can learn together in 2016.
Education careers are tough. These entries are dedicated to making the lives of educators easier and empowering those who have chosen this path to reach their potential in work and life.