Three Questions to Ask Yourself to Create a Healthy Work-Life Balance this School Year

A healthy work-life balance is essential for this new school year. Here are three questions to consider.

By Momentous Institute | Aug 08, 2022
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No question about it: it’s a challenging time to be an educator. As summer comes to an end and teachers head back into classrooms, some may be dreading the overwhelm of tasks and stress associated with the job. In order to stay emotionally healthy to be able to continue teaching (and hopefully having some fun along the way), creating a healthy work-life balance is essential.

But this is no easy task! When the mountain of prep work, student challenges, professional learning, lesson planning, and paper grading, there never seems to be enough time in the day. So here are three questions to consider while building a healthy work-life plan.


Question 1: How will I decide what to focus on?

Many teachers know t you could work every minute of every day and not ever “finish” the work. But with your limited amount of time and resources, you have to ask yourself which work you want to prioritize.

A few ideas to consider:

Make a list of the “to do” items in your head. Then, re-write them in order of importance and start working through the list from top to bottom.

Create a ranking system with categories such as “need to do today”, “need to do this week”, “need to do this month”, or Level 1, Level 2, Level 3. Decide the order of what you’ll complete first, second and third in your “need to do today” column. Ranking things in this way helps you discern the items that need to be taken care of immediately versus items that can wait a week or two. If you have so many things in your “need to do today” list, consider things you can ask a parent volunteer, or school helper to help with. There are some items that only you can do (like report cards) and other items that can be done by a volunteer (like cutting lamination).


[Need help setting healthy boundaries? Here are six tips that can help.]


Question 2: What will my plan be when work isn’t finished at the end of the day?

This will definitely happen, no matter how hard you work during the day. There will be times when you’re not done with what you need to do by the time you’d like to head home for the day. So think about it now and make a plan. A few options to consider.

Stay at work and finish the essential items so you can go home and rest, feeling prepared for the next day. Some people work best at the end of the day and would rather knock out any work and head home without having to take work with them.

Leave at a reasonable time and finish the work at home. Some people need a break at the end of a long teaching day, and don’t have the brain space to keep working another couple hours. These people may also prefer to finish work on the couch in front of the TV or after dinner, when they’re calmer and more rested.

Mix and match. If you have social plans or parenting obligations on certain nights, you can designate those as “leave on time” days, while allowing other days to be “stay later if needed” days. Knowing ahead of time that Monday through Wednesday are days when you really can’t stay late, but if needed, you’ll make up for it on Thursday or Friday, you can rest a little better on the days you know you have to head out.


Question 3: Who can I ask for help?

Many veteran teachers will tell you that one difference between their early teaching days and later years is that they learned they didn’t have to do everything themselves. Recognizing that you’re not superhuman and that, at times, asking for help is the best way to get things done can be freeing. A few options to consider:

Identify tasks on your list that others may be able to help with. You may be the only person who can write your next lesson plan, but are you the only one who can make photocopies, cut things out, or staple artwork to the walls? Put a star next to items that don’t require your unique skillset.

Make a list of the people available to you to help. Think of any people who have ever said, “Let me know if you need anything!” These might be the room parent or other class parents, administrators, school counselors or coaches, front desk staff or even friends outside of work. When people offer to help, they usually mean it and are often happy to be given a specific way to be helpful!

Save up non time-sensitive work that can be done by others and make a work party out of it. If you’re making over your classroom for a new season, prepping for a big lesson with lots of props and materials or building a new station in your classroom, make a list of work that needs to be done just for that project, gather the supplies and instructions and get a group together to crank it all out in one block of time.


These three questions won’t alleviate the workload or change the educational landscape, but they can make the job more manageable and hopefully allow teachers to have just a little better work-life balance.