What are your Non-Negotiables?

As a teacher, what can you absolutely not do without doing?  I’m hoping you’ll say spending time with family and friends, exercising, reading or having time in the garden.  As human beings we certainly can’t manage without these things, or whatever similar pursuits make us feel rested, happy and hopefully steer us clear of poor mental health.

More and more teachers now give up their exercise class or time with friends to complete their sixty-hour-a-week workload.  Stop it now.  You weren’t put on this earth to analyse pivot tables whilst your partner takes your children to the park on a Sunday afternoon.  Missing out on park visits, dropping out of exercise classes and working late into the night are just a few examples of what I’ve come across not just once but time and time again.

Skipping something you enjoy occasionally to meet a deadline is okay.  Some would say more than okay to reach the career goals you pursue.  Do it too often, and you’ll lose the bigger picture anyway.  Your working week will consist of lunging from one essential task to another but you’ll also waste time as your tired mind gets distracted by your phone or your worries.

The solution is not an easy one but starts with some bloody-mindedness.  If you find yourself in this boat, and I’m speaking to most teachers here, you must identify all which is non-negotiable in your life. 

If you’re not prepared to turn your back on your children (and I sincerely hope this is the case) then you absolutely must allot quality time in your day and week to spend with them.  Likewise, social and sport activities – these will have a beneficial effect on your mind and therefore productivity anyway. 

Once this is done you’re very likely to need solutions around how to manage your work-load.  Allotting time limits to complete each task is one solution. Becoming familiar with the Pomodoro technique and ensuring you neither check emails nor look at your Smart phone whilst you’re working are other hacks that you certainly must try.

Whilst all of these techniques are effective, they are just a starting point for optimising your time and re-establishing balance in your life.  However, in a profession where it’s almost a given that a personal life must come second to a professional one, knowing what and who you really value is essential.

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