Saturday, September 26, 2020

Stressed? Tips and Tricks I Learned in the Most Stressful Year of My Career

Don't hate me for what I'm about to say. 

So far this crazy COVID-school year isn't killing me. I'm not overly stressed. I'm not feeling burnt-out. I'm doing ok. 

I know, I know what you're thinking... Waaaeeellll laaa de frickin' da! Isn't that good for her. 

Keep Reading! 

I didn't say it wasn't hard. 

I didn't say I liked it. 

I didn't say I wasn't working my ass off (because I am). 

But here's the thing. Because of the job change last year, which saw me teaching in a brand new school, a new age group, and new content all while having a 4 kids (at the time) ages 7 to 5 months at home. This COVID teaching isn't much different when it comes to work load than what I saw last year. 

So yes, I'm stressed, I have more to do than I can possibly get done in a day, and my responsibilities somehow keep increasing. But I'm used to it. I "conditioned" the entire year last year in a type of environment where I was essentially a brand new teacher creating content, raiding TPT at the last minute, and trying to squeeze in grading whenever I can. Guess what...I entered more "completion" grades into the gradebook last year than I ever had before. It was survival. I worked all the time, whether it was working on school or working on my other full-time role as wife and mommy. And it was hard.  

And it broke me. I lost it. Come Thanksgiving I called and made my family cancel pictures because I had a complete melt-down over the thought of having to do one load of laundry. I wish I was kidding... 

But in the struggle I also learned a lot. I became someone who really attempted to master time-management. Because I had to. I had to be a master of the time I had.

I was just hoping that this school year the pressure and work-load would ease up. It hasn't. But I'm stronger than I was last year...so I'm able to carry it better this year.

So what did I learn? What skills did I walk away with? What do I have to offer you today? 3 Things. Just 3 things that can help you manage and budget your time so that you can start to breath a little. And these things work whether you're a parent, teacher, or student. Every single one of those groups are being thrown into the fire of school during a pandemic and all of us agree that it sucks. But we can emerge stronger... 

First Thing: Pick 6 

Chances are if you were to write out an entire list of all the things you need to do, you'd be completely and totally overwhelmed. Everyone has more to do and less time to do it. And that gigantic list doesn't do you any good. If you feel you need to get it out of your brain and on paper fine. But don't make that your actually running to-do list. Shove it in a drawer for now. 

And pick 6. Choose 6 things that you want to focus on today. Prioritize them by time and task and then set to work. But only work on those six items until they are done. Cross them off with a bright pink marker and celebrate with an iced latte from Starbucks. 

Then choose another 6. 

Sticking to only 6 things helps keep us from getting overwhelmed with too much information. Our brain gets bogged down in the amount instead of seeing in chunked portions. 

But Jill...I have more than 6 things to do. 

Yup. And you always will. Pick 6.


Next Thing: Be Goggle Focused 

I learned this term outside of a school setting and it has stuck with me more than anything else. It is my favorite time management hack. Multitasking is a lie. You can't effectively do two things at one time. (Unless you are a breastfeeding mama, then yes, darlin you can nurse that baby while doing another task) What I mean is, you can allow your brain to focus on two things or many things at once. 

Teachers are the worst at this. We will start 12 different things and then leave at the end of the day with 12 things started and nothing actually done. 

Stop it. Be "goggle focused". A swimmer uses their goggles to effectively swim the 200 Freestyle race, they wouldn't have a chance to win the race without those goggles. The goggles allow the swimmer to focus on the destination. The end. The goal. 

When you're working, whether it is planning a lesson for Tuesday, trying to complete your science worksheet, or attempting to fold a load of laundry...focus on the destination. The end. The goal. And don't stop until you do. Work until that one task is finished and then move on to the next. Before you know it you'll have all 6 items on your list crossed off. 

And even if you don't get to all 6, at least you have 2 or 3 done. Completely finished. Not 6 different things started and nothing done, causing you more stress and anxiety because a new day just brings more things to do. 


Last Thing: Get Dressed to Your Shoes

This one is really meant for those who are on some sort of flexible schedule and working from home. (Yes...if you're a student and you've made it this far into the blog post this one is really dedicated to you). You see...when I talk to my students about employability skills the one constant thing that they tell me they wish they could do better is time management. Every class, every year, time management. Well...you know what? I can't teach you how to manage time if I don't give you time to have to manage. Well now, many students, are finding themselves with tons of time they have to manage without the skills to handle it. This one is for you. 

Get up. (Yes, that means out of bed) And get fully dressed, all the way to your shoes. When we are dressed and shoes are on our feet it tells our brain we are ready to work. Seriously. We are in the right mindset to be productive. 

I know there is debate out there on whether or not shoes should be worn in the house. This is not the place for that debate. I won't tell you my opinion. But I will tell you what I know. If my shoes are off then I am sitting, lounging around and not knocking out that 6 item to-do list. It's hard to be productive when I'm in PJ's all day. 

Get dressed. All the way to your shoes and get to work. Take them off when you're done. Treat the day as if you would a normal school day and get up, get dressed, and get to work. I know it's hard. You're tired. I'm not saying you have to get up at 6:00...but you shouldn't sleep until noon, and then eventually decide to get out of bed at 1:00 only to just get started (while getting back in bed) at 2:00 and then wonder why it took your all afternoon to do that one vocab assignment. Get up. Get dressed. Shoes on. 


There you have it. 3 things that can help. Try one or try them all. See if it helps. I have more strategies but in attempt to keep this short (ha) and you from getting overwhelmed, I went with these three strategies. None of them are strategies that I fully created myself. I learned them along the way. Picked them up from different areas of life. It just seems that everyone could use a little tip on how to manage time. 

And remember to be kind to yourself. Things are going to go unfinished and get done late. You'll have to rewash the same load of laundry 3 times before you finally move it to the washer. You're going to assign a "movie day" so you can plan for the next class period. And you may have to email your teacher and ask for an extension. It's ok. You will make it through this. With a whole new appreciation for school, work, and home. 

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