A question I am often asked by new teachers is “How do I find a work/life balance?” My response is often “I have no idea because I am really bad at it.” While it is true- this is definitely an area in which I too struggle- I have developed and accumulated a few skills along the way that I have found to be quite helpful. With the hopes of supporting our educators find a better (not perfect, but better) balance in their lives, I am sharing my methods to achieving balance:
Have a life goal. I know... that statement is big and heavy, and it is also really important in achieving balance. Having a life-goal is different than setting a goal like “I want to own a house by age X.” That’s a smaller (but not small!) goal. What I am really asking you to do is to identify what you want out of life because your answer should guide your choices. If your life goal is to be extremely affluent, for example, your professional choices would be very different than if your life goal is to be spiritually grounded. That is not to say that wealthy people can’t be grounded but the choices you would make in order to achieve one goal would be different than the other.
Make time for self-care. So many people have come to equate self-care with beauty regimens, but that really isn’t the case or at least doesn’t have to be. So what is self-care? Self-care is defined as “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” Maybe for you this means talking a long walk, exercising, meditating, drawing, surfing, or getting a massage. Whatever self-care looks like for you, be sure to be purposeful about tending to your own needs because, the truth is, we all too often overlook ourselves. And, if no one has told you lately, you’re really important and you deserve it!
Ok here comes the hard one… Set boundaries. We educators are often alike in our passionate drive so, if you’re anything like me, this might be challenging. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was to “get comfortable with saying no.” That’s really hard if you’re used to saying yes to most things. Please understand that I am not saying you shouldn’t volunteer for committees, extracurricular activities, supervision duties, or attend school events. You should absolutely do these because these are the essence of your school culture and it is important for you to be a part of that. But you can’t do it all and have a life outside of that. Set boundaries by prioritizing what you feel is most important. Then dive head first into those things and enjoy them!
Be kind to yourself. It can be quite difficult to extend yourself grace, as we are often our own worst critic. Part of achieving balance, however, is giving yourself permission to mess up, especially if you’re a perfectionist. Think about it, though: if you always set a standard of perfection for yourself, you’re setting yourself up for failure at the get-go. Perfection is not possible and making success all that much more challenging for yourself is quite unkind. Instead give yourself recognition, cultivate your inner cheerleader, and scream “Go me, go!” from the rooftops.
Regardless of the strategies you use, it’s important to remember that having a work/life balance doesn’t mean that your time and energy is split in half and spent accordingly. Rather, the balancing act here is all about making sure all of your priorities (work and life) are being met. Remember, striving for balance isn’t a one-shot deal; it’s a continuous process of practicing, reflecting, adjusting and then practicing again.