Creating Work-Life Buffers to Be More Present at Home
With all you do, it’s easy to find yourself working around the clock just to stay ahead. Working too much can not only be damaging to your health but can also be damaging to your family. Creating a barrier at the end of work time — at least for a few hours — can help you regain your family time and maintain the delicate balance you need for a positive work and home life.
Here are a few simple habits to adopt to help you build a mental barrier.
Create regular work hours.
As much as people like to complain that teachers only work from 8:00 to 3:00, we know the truth. After school is a good time to get paperwork done after a long day of the actual “teaching” portion of your job. And that time is important for controlling work stress and managing your workload. But no matter how much your work piles, there is a reason to end your workday at a particular time: your sanity.
Determine a quitting time and try to stay as consistent as possible. Consistent end times will help trigger your mind to focus on your home life. If you set your work aside or pack it up every day at a set time, your body will begin the reset necessary to be more present at home.
Create self-care habits when leaving work.
Practicing mindfulness at the end of each workday will create a built-in work-life buffer. These moments can lower stress levels, stop your brain from stewing, and tame your emotions before jumping into your family life.
- Practice a few moments of mindfulness.
- During your ride home, listen to a playlist to re-energize and reconnect.
- Use essential oils during the commute and create a retreat for your senses.
- Recenter your mind by devoting your travel time to an audiobook or podcast.
Create self-care habits as soon as you arrive home.
Setting a routine once you get home will help transition your mind from work-life to home-life. Do a few things each time you enter the door to say welcome home.
- Change your outfit. Put away those work clothes and slip into something more comfortable: pajamas, sweats, leggings, anything comfy. Let your body know it’s time to relax.
- Store your work bag. Put your bag away when you get home. Whatever time you have set aside to do work is important to staying ahead but there’s a time and place for that. When it comes to your work bag, out of sight is out of mind.
- Do something just for you. Take time to just be you after a hard day of teaching. Watch a talk show, eat an afternoon snack with your kids, or journal about your day.
Have a set work time for home.
Some teachers work in the morning, some right after school, and some in the evenings. And, as important as it is to find the time that is most productive for you, it is also important to set a specific work time aside and stick to it.
When you bring your work home, you may be tempted to get it done. You may preview videos while cooking, or grade some papers right after dinner. This is a slippery slope! This is how lines get blurred and work begins to infiltrate every aspect of life.
Having a set time to grade, plan, and prepare for your classroom will help you relieve stress while still being present at home. Knowing you have a set time to do your work will allow you to say goodbye to guilt because you know you’ll get work completed at a specific time. You can dedicate yourself to your family at family time and to your work at work time.
As an added benefit, having a consistent work time at home can help your family know when you are there for them and when you need to focus on work. You love those rascals, your puppy, and your spouse, but they can often be distracting. If they know when you have to focus on work, it might be easier to keep them from distracting you. Well, maybe not the puppy.
Turn off and tune out tech at home.
Technology has given the world so many opportunities and one is to be able to access work nearly anytime and anywhere. Emails, online work submissions, and planning on technology can take you away from your home focus and divide your ability to do what you need to do.
When you return home, put your phone down. If you want to check social media, use your laptop. The clunkiness of a computer can limit the mindless loss of time scrolling. But really, put the technology away and play a board game with the kids, take the dog for a walk, or learn to crochet that Harry Potter doll your niece has been asking for.
Limit social media at home to only your personal life.
Using social media in the classroom has revolutionized the ways that students learn and present their learning. However, mixing your personal social media accounts and your professional ones can make separation extremely difficult. Try to avoid friending any students or parents online. If you need to utilize social media for your classroom, have a separate teacher account for your students and their parents.
Apps like Remind or Band are great ways to stay connected and deliver messages to students and parents without including your personal social media accounts. Just be sure to turn off notifications. Schedule in time to check these apps and deliver messages. You want to stay connected to your students, not be a slave to their homework questions.
Limit your work conversations at home.
Venting is a good way to let off steam, commiserate, and get advice. But if done too much, it can result in continued negative talk and making a work-life balance even harder. Before you start to vent at home, ask yourself: Do I need support and help right now or am I just continuing my day’s negative stress?
Find support and communicate but don’t let negative talk take over your home life.
Overall, recognize that you don’t have to do it all, all the time. There’s no off switch but, if you can strengthen the boundary, it can go a long way toward keeping your sanity. You’ll be a better teacher and a better partner, parent, and individual if you invest some time and energy into creating boundaries between your worlds.
Ashley is an award-winning copywriter and content expert with more than a decade of proven results for national and local clients. From brainstorming high-end conceptual content to styling sentences that engage and convert, she’s got a knack for shattering the status quo. When she’s not in full-on writing mode, she’s hanging out with her rascal of a puppy and discussing the plausibility of unicorns with her 8-year-old daughter.