The shelter in place and quarantine requirements as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic brought frustration and creativity to our daily lives. In an effort to adapt to this new “normal,” we sometimes creatively invited more frustration. Perhaps we felt as though we need to be more available, or felt as if there was an urgent need for extra work to complete a project. I’m referring in part to the ongoing work that goes into creating and revising delivery models and schedules for K-12 and higher education institutions alike.
While our love and passion for what we do might be infinite, our time is not. This new way of life, primarily working from home, has caused many of us to blur the lines of work/life balance. Sure, we could flip the laundry from the washer to the dryer between Zoom meetings, but is that the balance we want? With all of our multi-tasking, where do we squeeze in time to research or write? How do we carve out time for our lesson planning or course preparation? Where do we find time to practice self-care?
Even prior to the global pandemic, we consistently had people and things competing for our time and attention. Now, we are more available and that competition is even greater. This, coupled with those blurred lines I mentioned, can create disruption and frustration. Good things come when we embrace disruption—so, let’s talk about a few strategies you can use to bring some balance and peace to your days while finding time to research and write. Let’s DISRUPT disruption!
Determine your goals
Whether you have them hung in your home or office, or simply tucked away in the back of your mind, you’ve got goals. Consider what goals are a priority and ensure your boundaries protect these and allow them to come to fruition.
Identify your boundaries
Easier said than done, right? Well, not really. We just need to do it. Consider the Who, What, When, Where, and Why when defining your boundaries.
Who? Yourself, family, friends, colleagues, etc.
What? Self-care, socialization, family functions/time, work, writing, research, etc.
When? Schedule or block time
Where? Home, office, coffee shop, your “happy place”, or other location(s)
Why? What goal does this help me achieve?
Share your new “schedule”
Make your schedule available to those who require your time. Communicate when you are available and when you are unavailable explicitly. Perhaps even have a set action/behavior to show when you’re unavailable. For example, close the door to your home office or office, find a remote place to do your work, etc. (manage interruptions).
Revisit and revise
Your schedule is likely going to change from week to week. Revisit your schedule to identify what’s working and what’s not working, and don’t be afraid to tweak it. Revising your schedule prevents you from falling into a rut and perhaps allows time for other opportunities.
Use what works for you
If you’re like me, you might prefer a daily notebook (with 15-minute increments) to block your time. Or, perhaps you love your electronic calendar on your computer or phone. Whichever you choose, make sure it works for you. If you try to implement a technique because it’s popular or recommended by a friend but you can’t seem to internalize it, you’re just wasting the precious time you’re trying to protect. Bottom line—find the technique that works for you and USE IT!
We aren’t perfect. Neither are our family members, friends, or colleagues. So, we need to practice a bit of grace when we are met with interruptions to our schedule—even if we are the cause of the interruption. How many times do you find yourself tapping away on the keyboard until a notification comes across your phone screen? This “little dragon” (White, 2017) just derailed your schedule. Don’t get upset—just refocus and get back on track. Whether you are off track by one minute or 10 minutes, don’t tell yourself you blew the whole day. As White (2017) mentions, we need to stop the “junk talk.” Simply finish up the time allotted for your activity and move on the next one. If you find that you’re likely to lose control of time when you’re interrupted, identify some healthy practices so you aren’t totally derailed. Consider meditation, counting, taking a walk, etc.
Thrive by taking action!
Get started today by creating your “I will…” statement:
I will (activity) with (who) for (what) (when) at (where) because (why).
Example 1: I will reflect on and mentally digest the happenings of this amazing conference in my home office from 2 pm to 3 pm on Friday because it will allow me to further inform my practice as an educator.
Example 2: I will get a pedicure with my daughter on Monday evening from 6 pm to 7:30 pm at the salon to relax and spend quality time with my daughter.
Navigating these crazy times won’t be done perfectly, nor will it be permanent. Remember to practice grace as you set your boundaries and embrace disruption.
Stephanie L. Wasmanski, EdD, is an assistant professor at Wilkes University in the Doctor of Education program. She earned her EdD in educational leadership with concentration in curriculum and instruction from Wilkes University. She holds an MBA from Wilkes University and a bachelor of science degree in psychology from Misericordia University. With over 15 years of professional training and teaching experience, Dr. Wasmanski has taught numerous courses within the fields of psychology, business & leadership, and educational leadership. Her primary research interests include motivation, engagement, and mindfulness as they relate to employee and student success.
Managing Interruptions: Maintain Focus, Keep Control of Your Time. Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_94.htm.
White, G. E. (2017). The dissertation warrior: The ultimate guide to being the kind of person who finishes a doctoral dissertation or thesis. Happy Valley, OR: Triumphant Heart International, Inc.