Over the last several weeks, the questions seem to play on a broken record,
How many hours are in your day?
How do you fit it all in?
How do you manage everything?
Mostly, the answer is, “I don’t know” or “I don’t.” While there are certainly aspects of that which are true–such as the many emotional breakdowns during the fall semester, at the same time, for the most part, I do usually, somehow, manage to fit everything into each day.
How? I’m not sure I entirely know the answer to that…nor that I would recommend trying to replicate it, but, here’s my best attempt at explaining it.
1. Accept that it will be stressful. Get used to it.
In one sense, fitting it all in is just something I’ve always done. I’ve never NOT worked a second job, or worked summers. I don’t even know what the “traditional teacher schedule” looks like. I worked during high school…and college…and every year after.
That being said, my current state of affairs is barely above water. Adding the pressure and time commitment of taking online college classes to my schedule was a whole new level of crazy. There were days this past fall that I didn’t think I would be able to hold it all together. Some days I didn’t. I fell apart emotionally and mentally and had to step back from it all and realize that no one will die if I don’t buy groceries today. When it gets to be too much, I find it helpful to focus on the one or two things that are non-negotiables, then slowly build back up from there.
2. There really are only 24 hours. Learn to manage them…and all the minutes and seconds in them.
The key really is in time management. I know what needs to fit in a day, and I just make it work.
Even though I don’t prefer getting up early, I find that it really does make an enormous difference in how productive each day is. On school days, I tend to get up pretty early (for me)–usually 5-5:45, depending on the day, to get a workout in before work, make lunch and breakfast, and walk my dog. I work with my coach to attempt to schedule most of my workouts so they are not on the same days that I work a second job. I use the majority of my lunch and prep time at school for studying, reading, or completing “office” tasks like scheduling doctor’s appointments or budgeting for the month. Fortunately, I’m a fast reader, which makes grading quick, and I do my best to plan out entire quarters at a time at school so that I can see big-picture and so I don’t have to spend every day planning the next day’s work.
There are certainly things that I wish I could dedicate more time to: longer walks or hikes with my dog, meditation, reading for pleasure, sleeping… but I also think that being disciplined with my schedule on work days helps to make some of these things things even more enjoyable during school breaks or on weekends when I can fit them in.
3. Don’t take work home.
I’m so grateful that my mentor teachers taught me this early. I would rather grade papers during lunch than take work home, and now that I’m ten years in, I just refuse. For the most part, I attempt to grade student work as soon as it is turned in, to avoid the inevitable “pile” of grading. Beyond that, I don’t check work e-mail or messages at home, and only take my school computer home over breaks or when it is mandatory due to likely school closures (weather and/or COVID). All of this keeps work at work and leaves the time outside of work for “all the things” that I am trying to accomplish with my remaining hours.
4. Put the phone away.
Ok. I’m not very good at this one, but I’ve practiced it enough to see its benefits. I get more sleep when I don’t even take my phone into my bedroom (and therefore I’m not scrolling through social media as the seconds and minutes slip by). I accomplish more when I can focus, do deep work, and am not constantly distracted by incoming messages, so the one thing I have done is silence and turn off almost all notifications. Even my text messages are silent. Increasingly, I believe I should put my phone away and out of sight more often…but I’ll get there.
Beyond all that… well, I don’t know.
I’m pretty sure that “doing all the things” is in some part a compulsion to be busy that is not altogether healthy. That being said, I really do enjoy learning and improving myself both physically and mentally, so that is a large part of what fills my time. In contrast, I really do wish that I had more margin to spend investing in the people and community that surrounds me. Hopefully, that will come–I’m working towards that. I think.