For the month of April, I am participating in the Blog A Day Challenge for educators. All prompts are provided by Meredith Towne (@BklynMeredith), an educator from New York.

It’s taken me 15 years to figure out how to pace myself with managing the demands of teaching, but I think I have finally figured out some tips that work for me. Maybe one or two of these will work for you, too.

  1. Hand-write the to-do list. I tried an electronic to-do list, and the satisfaction of physically crossing off tasks proved to be a motivator that clicking a checkbox on my Reminders app did not.
  2. Limit grading to 10 papers per day, per class. For some reason, 10 feels like the point where I start to lose my patience with sub-quality work, so if I stop at that number, not only does my sanity stay in tact, but my students don’t unduly suffer from rage-grading. Some assignments I might tweak that number, especially if I’ve collected papers in every single class. I never go below 5 per day–and even with that low number, I could get most assignments back to students in a week.
  3. Take one night off during the week. I pick one night every week where I give myself permission to shove off all school work. Sometimes I even go out with friends or to a movie. That might mean that the day before or the day after is a bit more hectic, but that one night of guilt-free time spent the way I want makes me a more effective (read: happier) teacher.
  4. Mete out chores during the week. I started this during last year’s school musical and stuck with it because I liked it so much. I was spending 3-5 hours on Saturdays just maintaining my home, and I wanted to spend time on Saturdays doing more meaningful activities. So on Tuesdays, I vacuum. Wednesdays, I do laundry and clean the bathroom. Thursdays, I grocery shop. This way, my living quarters are always maintained and my weekends aren’t spent doing chores.
  5. Use ATrackerPro App when needed. This app has really been a help to me when I feel myself thinking I can multi-task. I start tracking exactly how I use my time, and it forces me to focus. I set a limit on how much time I spend grading, lesson planning, and I’m always shocked at how much I can get done when I dedicate chunks of time to different tasks.

So those are my tips for how I practice self-care. I do other things as well, like I try to work out every day, I try to write every day and read more books. Last night, I answered a phone call from a friend I hadn’t talked to in a while, and we chatted for half an hour. Allowing friends and loved ones into my life when they pop in–whether in person, by phone, or Skype–is all part of pacing and building a more balanced life.

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