Two inherent truths about myself:
- I love sleep
- I dislike stress
I wear a lot of hats. I think all teachers do. And I’m always so excited to say “yes”. All of my “yes” moments are intrinsically motivated. I love trying new things, being part of a solution, and I want to avoid falling into a rut. But along the way, I’ve found myself sometimes struggling to balance all of the hats I’ve chosen to wear. And that leads to stress. And that leads to less sleep. Which has meant that I’m not honoring the two to truths about myself. So I’ve tried a few things to help this year. Some are simple (Wunderlist has saved my life and the first app I’ve ever liked as a to-do list). Some are lifestyle choices (Headspace to help with mediating is really a special thing). But the biggest one for me is scheduling my worry.
Designated Worry Time
Every morning when I get to school, I look at my Wunderlist and have a tiny panic attack. And then get busy scheduling when I will worry about the things on my to-do list*. It could be I’ll worry about it in March. It could be period 3 tomorrow. When I get an email, I mentally think about when I can worry about it. Sometimes I put the worry time in my calendar. Or I tell people “that’s a Thursday problem, but I promise to get to it then”. Or I have designated days to worry about a particular project.
And here is the secret:
I don’t worry about it until I’m schedule to worry.
Quick case study:
I teach DP History and it is often the class that takes most of my time in planning and grading. I received a long email from my DP coordinator with the details of uploading my internal assessments in three weeks time, which also happened to be the week grades were due and we had Student Led Conference. Normally this work have me immediately responding, emailing and dropping all other things to get it done as soon as possible and me stressing about all of the things that seemed to be due at the exact same hour. Instead what I did was send the email to my Wunderlist and didn’t think about it for 10 days, when I knew I had a day with a low teaching load and most of my grading would be done. I would occasionally think about it, but I knew I had time to deal with it later. And I slept pretty good that week.
Why this works for me
Having been using this system this school year, there are a couple of side-effects to this (both positive and negative)
- I am active as opposed to be reactive. I don’t have to jump with every email. I don’t have to respond to everything. I will get to it when my schedule says I can.
- I’m using my time wisely. As opposed to spinning around my googledocs like a virtual Tasmanian Devil, I know what I’m doing because I’ve planned it. And I’m not jumping from project to project because I know I have time scheduled for everything. And now I’m no longer worrying, but I’m thinking.
- I’ve started long-range planning. I’ve prioritized many of my projects, put them in a Googles spreadsheet and indicated when I’m going to think about it. In doing so I realized I was planning on doing a lot of big picture thinking in March. This isn’t going to be feasible because of the fact that I’m traveling and grades will be due. So I figure out when I do have time to worry about those big projects.
- It seems like I’m avoiding things, but I promise I’m not. One of my biggest flaws is actively ignoring things I don’t want to do. But by honoring my time, I actually know I am going to do something I don’t want to do.
- Things come up. We work in a school and things will come up. There are days where my plans will be thrown out the window and something needs to get done right now! But that’s okay. And sometimes something will take longer than expected. And that’s okay too. I will have weeks where things will be intense and I will worry and stress and maybe my to-do list will be running through my mind at 2AM. It happens. But it will get done.
- I’m vaguely afraid that by posting this post I’m jinxing myself I can imagine 20 emails coming in 30 minutes after I post and I will regret ever hitting publish.
- Sometimes, people won’t get what they want from me right away. This is a toughie for me. I don’t like to say no. I don’t want to do less than 100% for my students and do less than my best in the jobs I’ve already said yes to. I love to dive in. But my life is a delicate balance and sometimes I have to tell someone I can’t do it right now. But I promise to worry about it later. And if I don’t have time to worry about it, maybe I will just have to say no (gulp!)
Of course this won’t work for all people. But it works for me. And having been working on this this year, I feel healthier and more balanced. And most importantly, for everyone around me, I’m back getting my full 8-9 hours of sleep.
*There is something much more formal based in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy called designated worry time. My system isn’t quite that, but it’s not too far off.