In this episode, I am going to share with you five work-life balance mistakes you might be making and five “quick fixes” that will lead to long-term solutions. These are mistakes that I’ve made in the past, and for some, continue to make.
I get so many questions about how to create work-life balance, so I thought I would put it all together into one episode. The advice that I’m giving you is from my own experiences, research, and from conversations that I've had with many teachers from around the world. The things that I’m sharing with you in this episode might get a little hard to hear, but remember, I’m coming at you from a coach and I’m going to give you some things to think about.
I’ve done several episodes about work-life balance in the past, and one of them is about how there is no such thing as work-life balance. Here are couple other episodes that I suggest that you check out for more on the topic of work-life balance:
The first thing that I’m going to dive into is the five work-life balance mistakes you might be making, and I know this because I’ve made these mistakes in my own life and I see teachers on social media or in my own workplace make them as well. Now, I’m not saying that they are happening in your life, but I want to raise your awareness today, and sometimes that’s a hard thing to do.
#1: You believe that there is no other way to be a good teacher than to have no work life balance, and/or you wear your lack of balance as a badge of honor.
I have seen/heard this, and you may not even know that you're doing it…but you believe that there is no other way to be a “good” teacher than to work 10,12, or 14 hours a day and you see no way out. I want to be clear here and just comment, if you enjoy the hobby of teaching - you enjoy all things teaching all the time - that’s okay and it’s your choice. But, if it’s making you feel miserable, this could be your first mistake because you believe there is no other way to be a teacher.
#2: You have no idea where to start making changes, so you change nothing.
This is so common, in fact, I was having a conversation with somebody in Instagram, DMS and I ask, What do you want? And they said, Honestly, Amber? I don't even know.
This isn’t an isolated conversation. When I ask teachers What do you want? Where do you want to start? Where do you see yourself going? Almost all of them tell me, Amber? I don't even know anymore. I can tell that they want change so badly, but they don’t know what they want, and therefore don’t know where to start making changes. Trust me, I’ve been there…I’ve been in that place where I just felt like life was swirling around me and I was just watching it happen.
#3: You have no time and energy boundaries, so therefore, your time and energy boundaries are consistently crossed.
You have no boundaries, but you're mad at people because they consistently cross them, including the education system as an entity. But this continues to happen because you have no boundaries to begin with… Ouch, right?
#4: You have no discipline, and no intention in your day to day work as a teacher.
That's also a hard one to hear… If you’re wanting “work-life balance” or wanting to improve your life, it’s very simple and I lay it out in the Burned-In Process in my book Hacking Teacher Burnout, and even more in depth in Burned-In Teacher University, my signature course. But this is what I say.
#5: You really don't want it bad enough.
When you’re faced with making the changes you need to overcome your burnout, you say, I can't, but what you really mean is, I won't - you’re not yet willing to explore other ways of thinking or doing things in order to get what you want. But what you really mean is, I’m afraid - you’re afraid that you’ll look bad or that you’ll make a mistake, or that you’ll make the teacher down the hall mad at you if you choose to do something different.
So there you have it, the five mistakes you might be making, and I understand that some of you might not be ready to hear some of these things, and that’s okay. But I encourage you to come back and listen to this episode again and to let yourself marinate on what I shared with you.
I’m going to share with you five “quick fixes” - which are relative to the person that’s implementing them and where they are at on their burnout journey - that will lead to long term solutions. I do want to make it clear that there is no magic pill. When I was deep in burnout, I was frustrated because, when I Googled how to “cure” my burnout, there was this list of things to do that was “one-size-fits-all”. This was stifling for me. I already was drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and my school email was off my phone, but I was still struggling with burnout.
So, If you’re like me and you’ve Googled solutions to how you’re feeling but you are still feeling stuck and are not seeing shifts, here are some things I’d like you to try.
#1: Change your beliefs and your mindset.
If you do not change your beliefs and mindset, nothing will change, and you will continue to struggle with work life balance for the rest of your career. And heck, you may not even make it to the end of your career and education (if that’s what you want) because you're constantly telling yourself nasty, negative things about yourself, your own worthiness, your abilities to make changes to our education system. You will continue to struggle with work life balance and burnout, if you don't change your perspective and your outlook for yourself.
#2: Do a “Big-Dreams Brain Dump”.
Take out a piece of paper and finish this sentence: Wouldn’t it be cool if… And then just dream: Wouldn't it be cool if I only worked in my contract hours? Wouldn't it be cool if I left by 3:30 or four o'clock every day and got to hang out with my new baby for an extra hour and a half? Wouldn't it be cool if I could pick up my daughter from daycare? Wouldn't it be cool if I could meet my friends? Just dream big! What would you do with more time before or after school? I want you to write it all out. This is the beginning of determining why you want to leave at a certain time, this is your reason for doing the hard stuff. I do things every day that I don't want to do, but these are normally the things that are going to set me up for success tomorrow or the next week. Deciding why you want better work-life balance is the key so you can keep coming back to how you want to feel and why you want it in the first place. If you aren't clear on your core values and your purpose for wanting to not work all the time, you will not make the changes necessary to bring your vision to reality. It's plain and simple.
#3: Create boundaries around your time and energy.
Create time and energy boundaries by number one creating a time allowance and a time budget. Boundaries protect your highest priorities, your people, and your core values from everyone and everything, and if you haven’t established your boundaries, then you can't be mad at other people or your career for crossing them. This all starts with knowing what you will and will not do and what you will and will not stand for.
#4: Approach each day with discipline and intention.
I know the work that I’m asking you to do to overcome your burnout is hard, but discipline and intention are the difference between overcoming it and allowing burnout to control your life. When we say that we want something but then we don't put daily discipline and intention behind what it is that we're doing every day, we aren’t going to see different results. Go into your days knowing what you're doing and why you're doing it so that you can leave and start treating teaching as a job because that's what it is. I know it's an important job - it's a really important job - but it's still a job, and you are more than your career.
What I want you to do is to create a weekly planning ritual where you look at your week ahead and set your future you up for success by creating your ideal work week based on your time allowance in that time budget.
#5: You really don't want it bad enough.
I want you to check your “I can’ts” and your “I would nevers”. I want you to challenge those statements, these statements reflect a fixed mindset. We talk to our students all the time about having a growth mindset and trying again if something doesn’t work, or making small adjustments, or abandoning ideas, but we don’t follow our own advice. Overcoming your burnout starts with you opening your mind to all of the possibilities that are standing right in front of you. Take out the “I can't” and “I won't” and replace them with “I'll try” because you are capable and worthy of having a rich life out of school. It is not a luxury, it is a right. It is a right for you to have a rich life outside of school, it is not a luxury and you are capable and worthy of creating your own balance.
Now, take a deep breath… This is a lot to take in and a lot to start thinking about, but you need to start taking some responsibility for your next steps. I've said it before, and I'm going to say it again, burnout is not your fault. I know that this is hard work, but you're the only one who can do this for you. You have to become your own hero. I've said it many times, we are not superheroes, but we do have one superpower as a human being and that is the power of choice. We can choose to do something different right now, for the sake of your well being and your work life balance. There is so much more to life than work and life - for more, check out my Wheels of Life episode I did with Crissy Crowley.
If you have any questions after thinking about all of this, please send me an email, a DM on instagram, or submit your question to Ask BIT and I’ll answer it in an upcoming episode.