My long suffering wife has spent half the evenings of our married life sat downstairs alone whilst I have been beavering away on work things. I can never take that time back: I can only look to reset my home/work balance so I have time for the family (my greatest passion in life) and time to do my work well which contributes to giving me purpose in life.
The first five suggestions below, on resetting your work/home balance can be found in the blog – Putting the Home Back into Your Home/Work Balance – published last week:
Work out Your 9 & 10/10; What Works and What Matters?
If you want to have more hours to spend on your home life you will simply have to start doing fewer things. The up side about doing fewer things is that you can really focus on them doing them much better.
Doing Nothing is an Option (Don’t be Told Otherwise)
“No is easier to do, yes is easier to say”; saying “yes” to everything is the first step towards personal burnout and organisational chaos. Not everything is equally important; separate the educational wheat from the chaff.
Recognise Your Stress Behaviours
When I’m stressed and chasing my tail I always just pile more and more meetings into my diary or tasks on each day’s to do list. For a long time, I never realised that I did this; now I can spot myself starting to work this way and control my impulsive behaviours.
Be Ruthless & Organised
You need a systematic way to stay on top of things; mine is an electronic diary and to do list with the corresponding Apps. Everything in one place is key for me.
Immediate Responses are Not Required
The downside of my strategy is I tend to have my Gmail, Calendar and Task lists open all the time on my desktop. Whilst the speed of my response can be impressive to some it leads to me to then get more emails and the downward spiral continues.
And here are the final five suggestions to help rebalance the time spent focussed on work and time focussed on your home:
Zarraga’s Rule was incorrectly explained to me when I was timetabling; put all your messy bits of the timetable into one slot. You need to think about this when dealing with the multiple tasks you complete on a daily basis. Some things can be done quickly others require more extended thought and time to complete. I’ve fallen into the trap of working in small time slots; 15 minutes here and then 20 minutes there and another 10 then 15 minutes later in the day. Repeated the following day and the day after; what was a job that required 60-90 minutes of focussed work has now taken 180 spread across three days with numerous emails answered, snatched conversations and flitting from one thing to another in between. Far better to apportion all the bits of jobs to an hour a day and leave longer slots, with emails and the phone switched off, to complete the important cognitively demanding jobs. On days I don’t have much time I don’t timetable many tasks; they simply won’t get done.
Leave Perfection to God; Good is Good Enough
In Liminal Leadership, I write about the moment Fr. Luiz suggested we leave perfection to God (that’s their job) and how it hit home hard. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and can literally waste hours shining and perfecting things that were already more than fit for purpose; driving other people mad at the same time. As I’ve aged and hopefully matured I’ve also realised my perfection, like everyone else’s, is largely idiosyncratic. Before starting larger tasks think about how good is good enough and complete to that standard. I literally would have worked 1000s of hours less if I had fully thought things through.
Work Time Must Balance With Down Time
There is a need to recharge batteries or as I sometimes say “refill the reservoir” if we are not to become exhausted. When exhausted we are no use at work and no good at home; we become diminished as people. I’m thinking about removing the Gmail App from my phone at weekends and during holidays; I’m only thinking about it as it seems a huge step. The other option would be to show a bit more self-control but as I use the camera on my phone quite a bit the temptation to take a sneaky look at emails is always there.
Hardly any emails I get are an emergency; urgent issues tend to arrive via phone calls. Maybe it’s time to remove those Apps as they can quickly be reinstated on Sunday evening or first thing Monday morning.
Alignment & Coherence
Too many things in the classroom and schools are misaligned. This leads to particularly inefficient way of working. Our Newly Qualified Teachers have an induction programme, instructional coach (working with NQTs for 20 minutes in the classroom and discussing aspects of practice for 20 minutes outside the classroom each week), a subject mentor and a professional mentor. You couldn’t claim we don’t try to look after our NQTs. However, there is a concern that replication or inefficient delivery is wasting people’s time. Every now and again it’s worth looking at your systems and processes and realigning them.
Find Your Own Combination of Solutions
Our lives are different; your solutions or combinations of the above plus others will be different to mine. It’s important to recognise this whilst also putting in place some general rules. For example the move to only sending emails between 7:00 and 6:00 pm Monday to Friday and never during the holidays, at St. Mary’s (made by the new Headteacher), is a great example. Not everyone appreciated it at the beginning; I doubt any of us would now change it. We have a responsibility towards each other to help people rebalance their lives; not to damage their well-being.
I wish you well.
Very sound advice. I have taught full time with various responsibilities at different times and have a number of rules which I follow to maintain the balance. Here are mine
Never open or read work email except at work. Have a separate account for family and friends.
Don’t work beyond 9pm ever. If needed get up very early and do a focussed hour while the house is still quiet – I am more productive then anyway.
Walk every day with the dog.
Go horse riding at weekends or something you love doing.
Be forgiving of yourself and others when things are not perfect. As you say sometimes good enough is good enough.
Of course this doesn’t always work …. but mostly it does so it in fact good enough!