Last week during our weekly check-in, the counselors reminded the three elementary principals of the importance of self-care and setting boundaries. As I collaborated with the other principals, met with teachers, chatted with parents and even took a long hard look in the mirror, the message became abundantly clear-- Ya'll- we need to set some boundaries!
Setting boundaries was something I really struggled with my first few years in administration, but after taking my Leadership Matters classes last year, I "bought in" to the message. You've heard me preach the message. It's not a work-life balance as we have always been taught. As Debbie and Derek have taught us, when you are all in at work, you should be "all in". When you are all in at home, you should be "all in" at home. (Can you see me doing the motion with my arms?!) It takes a certain amount of dedication, but it is possible and is better for you!
But... let's be honest, this is easier said than done. We are fortunate in times like these that we have a constant connection to others through phone calls, texts, emails, social media, Google Classroom, Zoom, on and on... If we choose, we can allow others to have a constant "lifeline" to us-- one that never "closes up shop for the night", one that does not pause for weekends and one that does not take into account our emotional well-being. It's a line that we need to disconnect when appropriate, otherwise we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and burnt out.
It has become even more difficult over the last month. I have found myself right back to trying to find a balance, but it has very much been leaning towards the "all in work" side. I've found myself grappling with a new dilemma: how to keep work life and home life separate when both happen in the same place. Suddenly answering emails and texts at all hours of the day and night, 12 hour+ work days and being tied to my computer has become the norm... not a healthy norm. When I took a 90 minute nap on Wednesday, I woke up to 22 emails, 8 text messages and 2 voicemails-- in just 90 minutes! I have heard similar accounts from many of you!
And it turns out we're not alone! People around the world are facing the exact same struggle! Glenn Fleishman, a tech journalist and home-office veteran, writes a few tips for us in his new e-book Take Control of Working From Home Temporarily.
1. Create a dedicated workspace.
Establish a place that is just for work, for at least part of the day — a place where you can be in office mode, and where others in the house know not to disturb you unless necessary.
Ideally that's a room with a door, but it can also be “a defined area in space other people use, or a temporary space you set up and break down each working day,” according to Fleishman.
2. Keep Regular Hours.
It's important to resist the pressure to work longer days, whether it comes from employers or yourself. “Every office and job will be different, but you should fight to retain a similar amount of work while home as you had the office,” Fleishman writes.
That could mean your old 9-to-5 (or 8-to-4, or 10-to-6), or revising your shift to meet the needs of homebound kids or elderly parents. Whatever your circumstances, arrange a schedule that makes sense for you and your employer and stick to it.
3. Take Breaks.
No one works eight hours uninterrupted at the office, nor should you at home. Do what you would do at your regular workplace: Regularly get up and stretch your legs, grab a tea or coffee, take a lunch break.
If your typical day at the office included the occasional gab with coworkers, keep doing that too, Dinnocenzo says.
"You can schedule things like that, or just pick up the phone and call people, like you would walk by their office or bump into them when you're getting coffee, and say, ‘Hey, how's it going?’ It's as simple as that."
4. Don't fill up commute time with work.
Like taking regular breaks, much of what Dinnocenzo advises new teleworkers comes under what she terms “replicate and simulate": re-creating at home the habits and situations that help you be satisfied and productive at work. But “you don't need to replicate and simulate your two-hour drive,” she says.
If you had to get up at 6 a.m. for your commute, “that doesn't mean [now] you have to get up at 6 a.m. and work from 6 a.m.,” she says. Consider using that time to do something “you never had time to do before,” like reading, exercising or meditating.
5. When you're done, stay done.
"[You] really have to be able to shut it down. Turn Skype off, turn the computer off, let people know,” Dinnocenzo says. Set your status to “away” on office chat platforms, and make it clear to colleagues that, barring emergencies, you won't be responding to work emails until the next day.
In lieu of leaving your desk and commuting home, she adds, do something concrete to mark the shift out of work time, especially if it's something you typically did when you got home.
"We don't have that transition time anymore, and some people need that,” Dinnocenzo says. “A lot of people decompress with their [commute], and it is symbolic in ways that they were never conscious of.”
That might be a short walk, a cold beer or making dinner with the family: “Whatever you would normally do to just say, ‘I'm done.'"
6. Mute your school email on your phone.
This is my addition to the list. I know it seems crazy. I can imagine many of you just said, "Yeah right" when you read that, just like I did when Natalie suggested it to me last year. But seriously. Mute it. The convenience of having your inbox on your phone is unparalleled, but the constant dings and alerts will make you crazy. Even worse, it will lead you to break the new boundaries you have just set for yourself! If it is an emergency, you will receive a phone call or a text message from the person who is trying to contact you.
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