10 Tips for Surviving Busy Back to School Season!

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This is a back to school season like no other. There is always so much to do and so little time to get it all done, but this year seems even more overwhelming. I’m working on stopping the overwhelm and focusing on getting only the most important things done. I’m not there yet, but here are some ideas that are helping me. I hope they’ll help you too! 1 – Fill in all the dates on your planner. Nothing helps me to feel more in control than to see what is coming up so that I can prepare for it.

2 – Make lists of #allthethings you have to do. Even though that seems overwhelming (both to do and then to look at), it helps me to calm down and know that everything is written down and I won’t forget anything. 3 - After you make that gigantic list, go back through and see what you can eliminate doing (because maybe it doesn’t really matter that much), delegate to someone else, or simplify.
4 - Prioritize the tasks. I use a simple A-B-C method but you can use whatever system works for you. “A” tasks are those that need to be done first. “B” tasks are those that need to be done soon. “C” tasks can wait until you have more time to do them. 5 - Establish some routines for yourself. Here are some tips: ~what has to be done daily? Make a list. ~when is the best time to do each of these tasks? Before you start school in the morning? During your planning/prep period? During lunch? After school? In the evening? ~make a specific task list for your work blocks of time. ~what has to be done weekly? Make a list. ~when do each of these tasks need to be done? On certain days? Or could they be completed as time allows? ~make a specific task list for each day.
6 – Also think about your life “things to do” list. Follow the same steps above if needed, but create a routine schedule that works for your life outside of school. 7 – Think about your own self-care and set goals for that as well! Make sure that you intentionally plan time for yourself every single day. This doesn’t have to be a big chunk of time. Come up with ways to remind yourself to take a few minutes to do something that energizes or relaxes you.
8 – Use the techniques of pulsing and phasing. Several years ago I read a great book called Coming Up for Air: How to Build a Balanced LIfe in a Workaholic World by Beth Sawi. One chapter in her book is called “Two Approaches for Especially Busy Times”. I return to this chapter every year during the busy August/September back to school madness. She describes the two approaches as “pulsing” and “phasing.”
*Pulsing – this involves scheduling one or two days a week to work late or come in early. This gives you time to catch up on all those work tasks that have to be done. But on the other days — the ones that are not “scheduled” for staying late or leaving early — you leave at an earlier time. Beth describes this technique as being helpful for reducing those feelings of “not doing enough” or “not working hard enough”. Having done this before, I can attest that you can get an amazing amount of stuff done when you schedule this time and make a list of what you want to accomplish during the work session.. One way that I have used this technique with my teaching or coaching jobs has been to work at school for a couple of hours on a weekend. The weekend technique worked especially well for me when I had young children. While working later or coming in earlier was not always possible (due to childcare schedules and my husband’s travel schedule), finding a couple of hours on a weekend worked for me.
*Phasing — this involves committing to lengthy workdays for several days (or weeks), but scheduling a definite time when you will return to normal hours. For teachers, it might be helpful to think of the first month of school (starting with workdays) as being a busy phase. Make your peace with the fact that you will be working longer hours and will not have as much time for activities outside of school. I also think of first-quarter report card time and parent conferences as being another busy phase. Even when you’re in a heavy work phase, it’s still important to think about which personal priorities matter most to you. Which priorities are non-negotiable? Which priorities could wait until another time?
You’re not saying that those priorities don’t matter. You’re simply saying that right now you have a limited amount of time and that limited time needs to be focused on your non-negotiables. Another idea is to identify your non-negotiables but plan for smaller amounts of time to do them. Keep in mind: doing something is better than doing nothing! Consistency counts, even if the amount of time is not what you would prefer. One more way to stay balanced while phasing: list your priorities but think about smaller tasks you could do. For example: could you do shorter workouts? Plan simpler healthy meals? Spend a smaller amount of time with your family but spend it doing what matters most to them? Do the bare minimum you need to do to keep your home orderly? Text friends to catch up instead of having dinner together?
9 - This one may be difficult, but try to set an “end date” for your heavy work phase. For example: from the date I first start teacher workdays at the beginning of the school year, I block off four straight weeks. I know, from hard experience, that those four weeks will be work-heavy and I need to give myself grace when it comes to other priorities and areas of my life.
10 - For those first four weeks of school : I try to avoid scheduling any medical appointments or other appointments that can wait. I do daily straightening up and weekly light cleaning around my house. Paying for a cleaning service might be another option for you. I plan simple meals that don’t take long to prepare (and will provide left-overs for another meal). After the first four weeks, I am in more of a routine with school commitments and can adjust my schedule to fit in other priorities. Getting through especially busy times — so much to do and limited time to do it all — is always a challenge. I’m still learning how to do that best. Please share any tips or ideas you have!

by Kelli from Still Teaching Still Learning

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