“How can I get everything done that I want to get done? I just need to find balance.”
Have you ever thought that before? I do all the time. I used to stress out about it. I would look at all the things that I had to do, I look at all the time I had available, then try to block out time on a calendar to get it all done. It was a dance of scheduling all kinds of activities.
Certain activities got priority over others, especially the ones that involved work and family. As my kids have gotten older, they have been participating in more activities, and that has added a layer of complexity to each week. When I have tried to take it all in, thinking through my schedule, there were times when it was quite dizzying.
Years ago, I heard a talk about blending versus balancing. There was so much wisdom in the idea of blending. It turns out that balance is a bit of a myth; it’s not really achievable. What we need to do is look for ways to blend life together, like ingredients in a dish.
As teachers, especially during the academic year, life comes at us pretty fast. I thought the pace was blistering in my twenties when it was just me and my wife. But in my thirties, the pace has picked up because there’s all these kids in our house now. And as they grow up, and develop more and more of a mind of their own, that stretches my wife and I to include them in more things. I can already tell that this won’t slow down any when I reach my forties (which is fast approaching).
How to Make It Blend
If we’re looking for balance, perhaps we’re asking the wrong question. It’s not about looking for time, it’s about looking for opportunities. Perhaps the question is, “How can I make it blend?”
As I have practiced this over the years, I have some key ways that I make different areas of my life blend. As I think through my week, I look for those times when when I am doing activities that I can do without a lot of concentration, then I blend those times with other pursuits.
Here’s a short list of those activities I do weekly that don’t require my full concentration:
- Washing the dishes
- Taking the dog for a walk
- Waiting in line
- Shopping for household needs (i.e groceries, hardware, automotive)
- Eating a meal
- Walking from one location to another
- Driving to and from work (and other familiar locations)
If I were to total up all the time I am doing these things, it would be significant chunk of my waking hours during the week. These are the activities where I have the best opportunity to blend in another pursuit that requires more intentionality. Things like:
- Listening to an audio book or podcast to get sharper
- Calling a loved one on the phone to catch up
- Bringing along one of my children to have big conversations about life
- Watch video tutorials on something I want to learn
I find other ways to blend my time, but these are the most common.
When focused on balancing, I felt like I was always behind, always trying to reach that perfect equilibrium. I was making lists and checking boxes, and a lot of my boxes went unchecked.
Now that I blend, I find life a lot more interesting. Instead of setting boundaries on all the things I have to do, I am looking for indicators in each activity that I can blend something else in. Instead of planning time blocks, I am looking for ways to combine ingredients. Instead of trying and failing to stick to a schedule, I get to be creative in seeing what elements I can bring together. Instead of experiencing anxiety (like balancing while walking a tight-rope), I feel a sense of adventure, taking opportunities and making the most of my time.
Here are a few ways I blend as a teacher:
- Teach the students to give one another feedback–this is deeper learning for the students, and each student gets a shorter feedback loop (assessment and learning at the same time).
- I double dip Writer’s Notebook entries and other elements of the curriculum, especially inquiry when students are doing research.
- I have students write “scripts” for their speeches in class (don’t write a script, you can’t perform) — I can’t possibly assess all the writing the students do, but this way they write and I can assess the performance.
- I have my students give speeches on something they just read, which combines literary/rhetorical analysis with public speaking.
If I tried to do each element above separately, I would never get them all done. But when I find ways to blend them together, my students get more bang for their academic buck. And for me, I get to flex my creativity muscle in working these all together in the classroom.
And just in case you’re interested, here the audio books I have listened to this past year:
- Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
- Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards
- iGen: The 10 Trends Shaping Today’s Young People–And the Nation by Jean M. Twenge Ph.D.
- Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World by James Emery White
- Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
- Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff
- Speak So Your Audience Will Listen: 7 Steps to confident and Authentic Public Speaking by Robin Kermode (still working on this one)
- The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher
- Pre-Suasion: Channeling Attention for Change by Robert Cialdini Ph.D.
And here are my go-to podcasts for professional development:
- Cult of Pedagogy with Jennifer Gonzalez
- ReThink ELA Podcast with Michelle Waters
- Better Leaders Better Schools with Daniel “Sunshine” Bauer
- Building a StoryBrand with Donald Miller (this is a business podcast, but I pick up all kinds of helpful tidbits for the classroom)
Do you balance or blend? What tips do you have for getting it all done?
Leave a comment below.
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