Your Life as a Teacher by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D.
Pockets are “the difference between calm and crazed.” You can determine how much of your life is your work and how much of your work is your life. What “pockets” do you need to strike the right balance? Put these productivity tips into play to give yourself some pockets:
- Decide on all dinners at the beginning of the week. It’s a relief not to have to worry and wonder about what you’re having or fixing for dinner during your school day. On Saturday or Sunday, decide exactly what each dinner meal for the upcoming week will be. Put it on your refrigerator or in your planner. Shop or delegate accordingly.
- Distinguish between urgent and important. Stephen Covey has brought this concept to widespread attention. There are parts of your life and your work that are both urgent and important, parts that are one or the other, and parts that are neither. Focus on what’s important, including that which is urgent and important. Chuck the rest.
- Spend time with people who are not teachers. Regardless of the field you are in, without the perspective you gain from those outside your field, you really have no perspective (and that means no pockets).
- Say “no” to non-essential tasks. While you might enjoy serving on the “Sunshine Committee,” it might do more for your sunny disposition to get your job done.
- Work when you’re at work. Don’t be lazy, disorganized, or unfocused and then claim that you don’t have enough time (or pockets) to complete your job. Read Larry Winget’s book, It’s Called Work for a Reason! Your Success is Your Own Damn Fault. This is an in-your-face book and it is worth reading and sharing with others.
- Ask (and answer), “Is the stress of this job within my tolerance?” All jobs require periods of stress. Constant stress, however, due to lack of pockets, toxic environments, expectations beyond your limits, or requests to work in a way that violates your principles…creates an unproductive environment. It takes a toll on you.
- Expect those around you to do their jobs. Every person in a school district has been hired to make sure that students are learning, regardless of the job title. Lead by exhibiting, promoting, and supporting a strong work ethic. Enabling anyone who is not doing his/her job serves no one. It removes your pockets, it cheats the other person of the satisfaction of doing great work…and it deprives students of what they deserve.
- Ask your family and friends if they think you love your job. Listen and learn by what they say and then take any actions that would put pockets in your work and your life.
- Listen to your language about being a teacher. Do you love it? Is it fun? Are you energized by what you do? If so, why? If not, why not? If you are approaching your limit of toleration for this particular job, field, or career, then it’s time to make a change–or at least to step back and take a long view.
- Figure out the place in your professional or personal life where you have become “crazed” (which means you have lost your pockets). Do just one thing that will put a pocket back in for you – even if it’s just a tiny pocket, it’s a start.
As an educator, you need to maintain your energy so that you can serve the students who have been entrusted to you. I encourage you to access the tips booklet: Put Time & Energy Pockets* into Your Life: 52 Tips for Teachers. Pockets can mean the difference between calm and crazed.