4 Ways to Find Balance in the Back to School Chaos
It’s that time of year again—when notebooks and pencil deals abound, parents are drowning in a sea of paperwork, and kids are walking around glassy-eyed trying to adjust to waking up every morning after a summer of blissful sloth-ness.
I teach 7th grade English/Language Arts, and we’ve been back at school for just over a month now, but the back-to-school chaos is still swirling. We’re still adjusting.
I was bemoaning this fact to a friend recently. I was talking about how before the first month of school was even finished, I had already spent more money on my classroom than I had in all my other years of teaching combined. I have also done more work at home on nights and weekends grading, planning, prepping, etc. than I have since my first year teaching. And I was feeling like a failure at all of it.
If I was spending time at home with my family, I felt like I was neglecting my students.
If I was spending time at home working on school stuff, I felt like I was neglecting my family and their myriad of back-to-school hoopla they were dealing with.
How on earth could I balance it all? Something was always going to have to give.
I cried out to God and asked Him for help.
Sadly, he didn’t clear my schedule or do all my grading for me. Rather, He whispered something to my heart that freed me.
Balance rarely means that everything gets equal time and attention all the time. Balance really means knowing what the priorities are and given those the time/attention they need for that season.
So, how do we do that?
Identify your non-negotiables. For me in this season, those are making sure my kids have what they need to be successful at school, and making sure I have what I need to be successful in my role as a teacher.
Identify to next-most-importants. Once you know your absolute must-haves/must-dos, find the next most important item(s) on the list. These things get the next dose of time and attention once the things in #1 are taken care of.
Identify the it-would-be-nices. These are the things that would be great if you can swing them, but aren’t necessary for success in this current season. These are the things you are absolutely free to say no to if you need to in order to take of the items in numbers 1 and 2. If you have the time, energy, and head- and heart-space to do them, great! Go for it! But if not, feel free to say, “No, thanks. Maybe next time.” And know that the world is not going to end because you’ve already taken care of the most important things.
Re-evaluate and adjust. The beauty of this process is that you can go through it any time—and we should be going through it regularly! Our seasons of life change—sometimes by the minute, it seems! Take time regularly to step back and see if anything from number 1 needs to be moved down a notch on the priority scale, or if anything needs to be moved up to top billing on the must-do list.
I cannot tell you how much emotional and mental freedom this simple process has given me. I still struggle to say no from time to time, but keeping in mind what real balance looks like helps me keep first things first. And if a season goes on for too long, I know I have the freedom to re-evaluate and adjust so that the real priorities get met.
How about you, dear friend? Is this a season of calm or chaos for you? How do you strike the balance?
Blessings and balance,
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