One major difference between school today and schools of the past is that learning can happen anywhere and anytime. In fact, that is a major feature of learning now and for the future no matter what happens. It is also a major feature of work in general but especially for teachers. Blurring the lines between our work and personal lives could actually increase productivity and make us happier.
Our new role as teachers requires us to not only constantly be devouring new information but then synthesizing that information into innovation in our classrooms. Because this information is showing up at all times of the day and on all of our devices, the lines between our work lives and our personal lives are becoming more and more blurry. I have stopped trying to separate these items in my life and have worked to find ways to integrate my personal life into my work life and vice versa. When I first started thinking about this idea, I felt like it was invasive and I’m sure many of you are thinking that right now. I know many teachers still struggle with needing to take work home (or having to leave it at work). This happens because much of the time at work that is carved out for planning ends up getting spent on relationships with kids, collaboration with colleagues and interactions with parents. This is necessary and makes sense. Also, I’m not sure our work settings have caught up with this need (I know schools haven’t). But, I think that will change increasingly so there is no harm in getting started.
Many years ago, I set a limit about bringing work home that I would only bring work I enjoyed home. This was okay but really, I still had to do the drudgery so I was simply making my time at work less enjoyable and I wasn’t increasing productivity or happiness with this rule because that’s where I could collaborate with others on fun stuff. So, I was effectively eliminating time for the fun stuff in my life to make time for the drudgery and the fact that it was taking place at work versus home was arbitrary.
Prioritizing to be happier
So instead of setting arbitrary limits to try and achieve balance, I have identified two strategies to be more efficient, more productive and spend more time doing what I enjoy. First, I prioritize all the parts of my life, both personal and professional that I enjoy and want to do more often. I make sure and carve out time for these things no matter what time of day I can do it. I love walking my dogs and the only time this can happen is after work while it is still light out, so I don’t plan other tasks for this time if at all possible. I really wanted to walk more so when I take a break from tasks at work to check email, I try and do it while I’m walking around the school building. I have added about 3000 steps to my day by doing this. Brainstorming ideas for a new unit over drinks with a colleague?
Repurposing to be have more productivity
Second, I try and be efficient by repurposing priorities. I really find writing this blog to be important to my personal and professional growth but it is time consuming. If I create course materials that can be turned into a blog post, this is an efficient and useful way for me to repurpose what I’m doing in one area and expand it into another prioritized part of my life. At first, I did this without thinking but when I started consciously trying to make these events happen, my productivity improved and able I was able to find more parts of my life where I could repurpose. In addition, the process of prioritizing really helped me put the important things in my life, the things that make me happy, at the forefront. There will always be drudgery so we don’t have to highlight it in our lives. Make a list of all the things in your life that you do that bring you joy and make you happy. How often are you doing these things? How are you spending your time? How could you blur the lines to increase your own productivity and happiness?