#28daysofwriting Days 23 – 27: Gone in a flash!

So, this week has been a  blur.  How is it that some weeks we spend just chasing our tails for them always to be elusively beyond reach?  Each evening I sat down to work promising myself that I would find 28 minutes to write.  My reward when I finished the tasks I had to do for the next day.  I have a habit of looking at the clock in the corner of my computer screen and things usually go like this:  I see that it is only 8.30pm.  “Yes!”, I think, “I will get to bed before midnight, Plenty of time to write, once I have finished creating this resource, working on this policy, updating this website.”  And then I glance again and find to my disappointment that it is already 11.30 and I still haven’t finished.  I don’t think I am a slow worker, in fact, I know I am not.  But I am not very good at focussing on one thing at once.  I get sidetracked, and I know that the internet, social media and emails, don’t help me stay on task.  Not to mention books, television and researching where we can do our next training walk or planning holidays.

These are some strategies I have tried to avoid distractions;

  • Working in a room alone, no noise, no TV
  • Closing all tabs except the thing I am working on so I can’t click on them accidentally
  • Putting my phone in another room or switching it off so I don’t hear notifications and I am not tempted to pick it up and look at it
  • Having a post it note on my screen with the task I am supposed to be doing written on it to remind me that that is what I should be focussing on.

They don’t work.  Well, they do for a short time but then I get bored of being alone,  my mind starts to wander and I open Twitter to see what is happening in the world,  Or I get up to stretch my legs, load the washing, take a washing off the line, fold it, put it away, make a cup of tea, load the dishwasher, unload it, clean the kitchen, the bathroom… Not all of these things at once ore even on the same evening, of course but you get the idea of how my work is interrupted.   And then I notice my phone, pick it up, see the notifications, look at them and spend half an hour following links from tweets and FB comments.

But then, I wonder if I am in the right frame of mind to work?  Is the evening after a busy day at school the most effective time to work?   I can’t focus fully on work when I know there are so many other things that are competing for my time and attention and which I really want and need to do.  Some of my distractions are the realities and necessities of daily life, of motherhood, of family life.  I am torn between my family and my work and my play.  I wouldn’t be without any of them.  But I sometimes wonder how I can get the balance right.  Work deadlines, the demands of my students, their parents and school, seem to shout louder than my family.  And what ends up giving is my family, my home and me.   Not work.

Somehow, I have to get better at this whole work-life balance thing.  Not sure how.  Maybe I need to try to do less, better?

#28daysofwriting Day 17: Work Life Balance

Why is it that great ideas come to me in my dreams but then elude my memory on wakening.  I had a perfect topic for my blog, I even remember writing it in my dream, but now there are just snatches of swirling half ideas, fragments of concepts floating just out of my grasp.

It is that point in the term, 4 weeks in, when my head is crammed with all the tasks that I need to do, all the conversations, emails, lesson plans, photocopying, presentations, that I start to dream about work.  So vividly that I am almost convinced that I have actually done some of the jobs on my endless list when I get to school the next day!   How many times do you say, “I’m sure I did that!”.  Maybe you did, in your dreams.

What is a dream? A dream is either:  a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep   OR   a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal.

It is thought that the content of a dream is closely related to recent real life events which your brain seeks to make sense of or filter whilst it is resting as a way of clearing and relaxing and coping with life. Given that we live our lives in a whirl and we probably have little time to process during our busy days, sleep is the only time that our brains do have time to do that processing.

Recently, one of the questions on the FaceBook group NZ Teachers (Primary)  was how did teachers maintain some sort of work-life balance?  How did they fit in school, planning, family, exercise, eating healthily etc.  As you can imagine there were lots of responses.  All of them felt that school dominated, long hours, at school after school, before school, at the weekends.  But most talked also about making the effort to create “me” time, “family” time, “brain” time. We can’t keep on going and be effective teachers without providing our brains and our spirits without a space to regenerate.

One person added this warning,  “Remember Celia Lashlie’s last gift to the world… “I’d waited too long to look after myself and my body broke.”It is tragic, but I have seen too many friends and colleagues “break” because they don’t give themselves a break or they don’t feel that they can take a break given the pressures and the competition in the workplace.  I sometimes feel that it is just that – a competiton.  Who can work the hardest , the longest hours, start the earliest in the morning, leave the latest in the evening, give the most tutorials at lunchtime .  It becomes a vicious circle and it is dangerous.

When we don’t give our bodies and our brains time to recover, we get sick, we perform less well, we fail.  You owe it to yourself to make the time to relax in whatever way is right for you.  Training for the Oxfam 100km has actually helped me regain some balance.  Yes, it creates some time constraints but my head feels lighter, I think when I am walking, I talk, I relax,  I give my body a break from sitting over a computer, I get fresh air in my lungs and oxygen to my brain.  I guess I need to keep that balance once the big day is over!
What is your work life balance like?

The Merry-go-round has only just started and I’m already feeling sick…

image of merry-go-round viewed from below with people looking like they are flying legs outstretched
Here we go round and round and round….

Oh dear, a couple of days of not reading blogs and tweets and Facebook and I am lost again! I am trying not to get overwhelmed and distracted, interesting as all the edcmooc threads are, and concentrate on the work I need to do for my day job! I spent a day yesterday trying to plan my Spanish Scheme of Work; I have lots of ideas but I don’t seem to be able to focus on one thing and am diverted when I start to search for resources and find something else which I get excited about but which distracts me from what I should be doing! (take a breath!) I think I have quite a lot of lesson plans but they are all a bit disjointed at the moment and I need some order to my thoughts. My good friend Allyn helped me get my head around the quagmire of NCEA as this is the first year I will be teaching the new standards and I think I know where I am going now on that particular journey. I just need to FOCUS!!
Then I decided to check my school emails – oh dear! More things to do – I should never have looked! I have just spent an hour sorting out things that really could have waited until Thursday if I hadn’t looked today! How does one manage not to multi-task and just concentrate on one thing?
Maybe I should switch off the computer and go back to a pen and a book?

Thanks to Katey Mack for the great photo. If you are in Cumbria check out the Wolfhouse Kitchen – awesome eatery

Reality Check

20130103_161713I can tell when I am sort of rested when I can’t sleep at night and I actually feel like I want to work! Or maybe it’s that “holiday almost over”, “back to school looming” sort of panic and mild hysteria that I have far too much to do in the short time left of the holiday that prompts me to try to settle down to some work?  I still want to make the most of not being in the daily demands of the school bell, spend some time with the family and get to the beach before the summer is over  In a bid to get some stuff ticked off early in the hope that I will have time before the merry-go-round starts again on the 24th January I spent yesterday writing my Spanish Scheme of Work and am still only, at most, a third of the way to completing it!

Whilst checking my mail today I found a great website called “Ideas to inspire” which has heaps of great  slideshows on a whole range of topics.  I found one about QR codes and how to use them in school to enhance learning and I thought this video would be great to show my staff at school.  I guess we also have to be careful of QR overload though or it could become a bit like the “death by powerpoint” of the last decade!