Do one thing every day that’s not work.

This is not a challenge; you don’t need to tip water over your head, take a photo of yourself with a sign, or post anything at all if you don’t want to! This is about YOU. And it’s just my suggestion of a small first step in making sure work doesn’t take over your life.

I’ve borrowed the title from adapting the lyrics of Baz Luhrmann’s “Class of 99” – where he sings/says: Do one thing every day that scares you!

This may sound dramatic but it is a serious danger in the teaching profession. More and more frequently, I read newspaper articles, blogs, etc. about the lack of work-life balance teachers are having to live with. This doesn’t seem to be limited to any one country or system; it seems to me that there’s something about the teaching profession and the kind of people who become teachers that makes burn-out an inherent risk. That probably sounds more negative than I mean it to! I just have the impression that, especially in places were teachers are poorly paid, most of the people who have (nonetheless) chosen to pursue this career do so out of a motivation to help, share, inspire, and so on. We want to do our best for our learners/students. And since a lot of our work (preparation, marking, etc.) necessarily takes place outside of the classroom, it’s all too easy for it to spill over into our homes, our evenings, our weekends, and so on. And it can start to take over, if we’re not careful. Yes, I speak from experience.
And so I try to live by the motto of “Do one thing every day that#s not work”. This may sound really easy for you. For others less so. But a lot of it is to do with noticing, re-categorising how we see things in our minds. For example: cooking dinner. Yes, you’ve got to eat, and that generally involves cooking something. But by mentally noting the time you stopped working, and enjoying focussing on the tears the chopped onions provoke, the smell of the chicken in the oven, the creamy consistency of the sauce, or whatever, and categorising ‘cooking dinner’ into something positive that you have achieved today, you’ve already changed your mindset from eating being something to squeeze in between marking essays and planning tomorrow’s lesson. Win!
Here are some other things I do which I count as my “one thing”:
– gym
– phoning a friend for a chat
– watching a film
– writing a blog post
– baking a cake (sharing with colleagues the next day can count as another “one thing”! 🙂 )
– paying bills online
– cleaning the bathroom
Some of these may sound silly and not very fun. But the aim is to make yourself consciously aware of something that you have done that was not related to work – this tiny change can make all the difference in times of stress. Of course, the bigger the “one thing”, the better you will feel, and I would suggest that if your “one thing” is paying bills five days in a row, then you maybe need to get help! But as I said, this is one small step in preventing work from taking over entirely.
I was writing this and thinking of starting the hashtag #onethingELT so that we can all share our “one things” – I can imagine that sharing makes the experience even more rewarding! Then I discovered #teacher5aday the more advanced version, let’s say, where teachers (not only ELT) are encouraged to five things per day: notice, connect, learn, exercise, volunteer. See here for more details.  You can choose which hashtag you use; I’ll see both. And I look forward to sharing and inspiring each other. Let’s beat burn-out together!
Another way to make it rewarding is to use an app like photo365 where you take a photo of your “onething” each day and make a collage to be proud of!

Baz Luhrmann also sings: “The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself!” So look after yourself, and you’ve already won!

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3 thoughts on “Do one thing every day that’s not work.

  1. Thank you very much for sharing this post Clare – found me on the right time and in the right ‘place’! Was just saying to myself: ‘You are more than the work you are doing’ 🙂 A very good idea!
    Zhenya

    Liked by 1 person

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