Sometimes as elementary music teachers we put so much energy into being a great teacher that we don't have much of a life left at the end of the day. With concerts to plan, lessons to teach, and responsibilities to manage it may seem difficult to keep our work life from bleeding into our home life, but there is hope. Here are 5 ways to find a work/life balance.
1. Decide What Is Most Important
When trying to manage a work/life balance it is important to decide in advance what things are most important in your life and give those the most attention. To do this remember that 20% of the activities we do in class give 80% of the results we get and 20% of the activities we do at home bring us 80% of our joy and fulfillment.
One way to help you realize what is most important is to sit down and write it out. Try the following prompts to get started.
My students learn the most when I ______
My students are happiest when we_______
I feel the most joyful when I______
I feel the most refreshed when I______
2. Decide What To Say "No" To
With so many different activities clamoring for our attention there are bound to be some that we simply don't have time to devote to taking part in. It is difficult, but in order to have a good work/life balance we will have to say no to some things that may actually be legitimately good. For times like this it is important to remember the following:
Sometimes you have to say "no" to the good to say "yes" to the best.
If you take time to decide what is most important to you, then you can weigh any new activities against what is most important and make a healthy decision.
3. Find Non-Negotiable "Me Time"
I asked a friend of mine, Michelle, what she does to find a work/life balance, and she said this:
"I have to give myself a day of rest" -Michelle Taylor
She explained that she takes one day, or at least one afternoon each week to do things that fulfill and refresh her. It may be reading a book, caring for her pets, or even playing video games, but she takes time for herself.
Another friend of mine, Rachel, summed it up, saying:
"If my cup is empty, I have nothing to offer my students" -Rachel Grelle
If we don't take time for ourselves we have nothing to offer anyone else.
4. Set Limits On Take-Home Work
Parkinson's Law states: "Work expands to fill the time set for it's completion" essentially, If we don't have defined time boundaries for take-home work, then it will consume our lives.
One way to use Parkinson's Law to our advantage is to set shorter deadlines for our work. If we decide we will spend an hour on lesson planning, but have an appointment one evening leaving us with only a half hour, it will force us to focus and we will find a way to get it done.
Try setting time limits for take home work and shaving those limits down as you find yourself able to work faster and more effectively.
5. Find A "Home Base"
It is important to have relationships in our lives that feel like home. This is where the spark of life comes from. A group of trusted people that we can share and feel safe with is what I like to call a "home base". For many of us this may be our family, for others it may be friends, and for still others it may be neighbors or a local church community.
This is important because we will face times in our careers and our lives where things get difficult and we need someone to turn to. That's when having a home base is most important.
In order to have quality home base relationships though, we must build and nurture them, by spending time with those people and having quality experiences. When we are open to giving and receiving with our home base relationships we will find that we have much more to give in the classroom.
These are just 5 ways to find a work/life balance as a music teacher.
What ways do you balance your work life with your home life?
What do you still struggle with?
Leave a comment below and share your experiences.