Here’s the thing: self-care doesn’t happen by accident. On Tuesday I stumbled across probably the best article about self-care that I’ve ever read. The reason I liked it so much is it was really honest about the fact that sometimes (oftentimes!) the most important acts of self-care are bloody difficult. It’s not all massages and manicures. The real stuff usually involves putting on the grown-up pants and exercising self-control, delaying gratification or sacrificing something we like but that we know isn’t good for us. Turning off the TV and going to bed at a reasonable hour, scheduling that dentist appointment you’ve been putting off and saying no to that invitation because it’s in the middle of report card season, even though the event sounds awesome and the invite was given by a person you enjoy spending time with and don’t want to let down. If you want excellent health, happiness and wellbeing then you are going to have to set yourself up for success by making these decisions.
But teaching has a tendency to be all consuming…
Do you find yourself with all sorts of plans to take care of your wellbeing and be proactive about your health, only to get side-tracked by schoolwork and derailed by deadlines?
I used to have this problem too. There are so many barriers to self-care that keep us from properly taking care of ourselves, and it’s just so easy to put it off for another day. But doing so creates a vicious cycle of deteriorating health and wellbeing that ultimately leads to burnout. And nobody wants that, right?
The first thing you can do if you want to set yourself up for self-care success, is sign up for my free 14-day email course that will help you Prioritise YOU! But I digress…
One of the most effective strategies I have used throughout my teaching career to set myself up for successful self-care was tracking the amount of hours I work each day. It’s a surprisingly simple and seemingly unrelated technique but used properly, it really does help you prioritise your time and avoid getting sucked into the rabbit hole of extra work tasks at 11pm on Saturday night (or any other time of the week for that matter). I got this idea from an amazing book called ‘Your Money or Your Life’ by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. I highly recommend it if you are interested in reforming your personal finances.
So how does tracking your hours work? 
Quite simply, make a simple spreadsheet or table with four columns: date, start time, finish time, hours worked. Each day you record what time you start work and what time you finish work, including any breaks. Now, I don’t mean lunch breaks at school where you do photocopying and help that kid with their homework and go to playground duty all while scoffing your sandwich. I mean an actual break, like the one you probably have when you get home from work and spend an hour or two watching TV or pottering about the kitchen before settling down to finish the marking after dinner. So, you need to record your hours spent at work, as well as the hours you spend doing work-related tasks at home. At the end of the day you add up how many hours you worked. At the end of the week you add up all the hours and arrive at a total for the week.
If you would like my tracking template, shoot me an email at [email protected] and put ‘work hours log’ in the subject line and I’ll send you one you can save and print out!
What’s the point?
Keeping track of your hours can help you prioritise because it’s a way to quantify and get a little bit of distance form your work. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busy-ness and to-do lists. There will always, always be more you could do. At some point in the day or week, enough has to be enough. Where you draw that line will be up to you, and it will probably be flexible depending on the season (report cards and musical production week generally call for longer hours!). But in general, it’s easier to walk away from that pile of papers and shut down the laptop when you can look at your spreadsheet and say ‘You know what, I’ve already worked 10 hours today/52 hours this week; that is enough. I have completed what is most urgent and most important. Everything else can wait, it’s time for me to look after me so I can carry on tomorrow/next week.’
How you use your time when you aren’t working is up to you, of course. There are still other barriers to self-care that can prevent your non-work time from being good for your wellbeing. At some stage we all deal with procrastination, overwhelm and FOMO, for example. But if you aren’t incorporating as much self-care into your life as you’d like because you keep getting side-tracked by work, this is the strategy for you.
Tracking your hours is a simple strategy that sets you up for self-care success. Try it for a fortnight and let me know how it works for you!
P.S. This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 5