I asked teachers “How often do you go home feeling like you still have a lot of work to do?” Over 80% replied “every day” or “almost every day.”
80%! That’s terrible.
But here’s the worst part. It doesn’t matter if you work another hour, you’ll still feel like you have a lot of work to do, right?
Contain The Fire
How do firefighters stop a big fire? They don’t try to battle it head on, they dig trenches, clear brush, and chop down trees to corral the flames. Then, the fire just burns itself out.
Too many of us try to battle the fire head on, tackling every task. Instead, focus on setting limits so your work stays at work and the rest of your life can flourish.
1. Say No
In my survey, over 90% of respondents said they take on unwanted, but optional responsibilities at least once a year. 57% said they do this “often” or “all the time.”
You must say no to things you don’t want to (and don’t have to) do. Will people get mad? Maybe. But those people aren’t your friends. Friends don’t pressure and manipulate each other.
Are you scared to say no? I am. Try practicing with a friend. Seriously! Say it out loud and it’ll be much easier to say them in real life: “Sorry, I can’t. I’m just too busy.”
And be clear that you’re saying no. Not “maybe” or “let me get back to you.”
The bonus: once you say “no” a few times, people will stop asking you! I bet you know the teachers on your campus who already figured this out. You know not to ask them to take on additional, unwanted responsibilities because they never do!
This will free you up to excitedly pursue what you actually are interested in.
So set limits by clearly (and politely) saying no. Contain the fire!
2. Wait Until It’s Due
I love Parkinson’s Law. It says:
- Give a task more time, and it will grow to fill the time.
- Give a task less time, and it will shrink to fit the time.
Isn’t it amazing how much you can suddenly get done when a deadline looms overhead? But when you let it take up evenings, weekends, and mornings, the work magically grows to fill all that time. And you still don’t feel like you finished everything!
You are most efficient with a deadline. Take advantage of this! Set short deadlines and work furiously towards them. Don’t give yourself lots of time to work.
And it works best when the deadline is truly a deadline. I prepped before school, because my deadline was completely inflexible. Once the bell rang, I had to roll with what I had.
Two keys shifts in mindset:
- You are not allowed to worry about work unless you’re working on work.
- You must let go of perfectionist tendencies. Which brings us to the final point…
3 Settle for Good Enough
I know, you’d never tell your students to do “good enough.” You want their best!
But, the truth is, very few tasks are worth the energy to truly “do your best.” Most can be satisfied with “good enough.”
The key is to identify those very few tasks which will produce the most important results. The Pareto Principal tells us to focus on:
- Minimizing the few things that cause the most problems
- Maximizing the few things that cause the most success
If you have a dozen things to do, pick the three that will make the largest impact. Let the rest be “good enough.”
And, when working with kids, you’re always going to get the biggest benefits from being caring, healthy, and relaxed.
Coming up in the series, we’ll look at becoming just a little healthier (physically, emotionally, and mentally) every week.