Food For Thought: Priorities

I usually wake up at 5AM.  I feed the puppy.  I get back in bed.  I snooze until it is absolutely necessary for me to get up, find something to wear, and eat some breakfast.  Sometimes if I’m lucky I chip away at a little bit of grading or lesson planning before I head off to school at 6:45 so that I’m hopefully sitting at my desk anywhere between 7 and 7:15 AM.  From there I finalize lesson plans, make any necessary copies, and hopefully get a tiny bit of grading done before school starts at 7:50 AM.  This hectic morning ritual has been toxic to my system.  I like leisurely mornings.  I like to find energy and inspiration in the morning to guide my day.  This is why I chose the morning for my daily practice.  I wake up and I need to energize and orient myself before I can start handling all the hurdles of a typical busy work day.

And so I have made a conscious choice to make today different.  It’s only 4:33AM and I just completed a sun salutation.  The house is incredibly calm and quiet.  Limitless possibilities are awaiting me as I stare at the blinking cursor on this empty white page.  Before 5AM rolls around and it’s time to feed the puppy, I’ll have written a blog post. I won’t start worrying about anything work-related until I get to work around 7 or 7:15 AM.  But this is only Day 2 of what promises to be a very challenging and rewarding battle to work towards writing regularly.  Good writing is practiced writing and so I need to go back to the basics of clearing my mind and digging for those truths I want and hope dearly to discover and share.

And so here’s the truth I’m struggling with right now:

This morning I woke up on my own at 4:07 AM.  My first instinct was to grab my phone and check my e-mail.  Why is that my first instinct?  What could possibly be awaiting me in my inbox at 4 in the morning?

The realistic answer is nothing.  There is nothing in that inbox that can’t wait until I get to work.  During my first year of teaching I obsessed over my e-mail.  I was so worried that one of my students would be e-mailing me in crisis mode over her homework or his essay.  And don’t get me wrong, there definitely are some crisis e-mails on occasion, but does a 4 AM response e-mail help that student?  Does it help me?  The answer to that is no.  Being tied to my e-mail doesn’t help anyone.  Modeling proper time management techniques is what makes me a better teacher.  Being glued to an electronic device to check e-mail is a toxic habit that enables others to feel like I’m available 24/7.  I don’t want to be that person any more.  I need to be person that carves out time for my own health and wellness.  I need to be the person who understands that a morning writing ritual requires me to get to the work of writing before my mind gets tainted and bogged down by whatever crisis might be in that inbox.

But the reality is that the crisis in my inbox isn’t really a crisis at all.  Working effectively means re-evaluating the idea of urgent and the demands on my time.  I think some people call this prioritizing.  And I’m realizing more and more in my second year of teaching that I need to practice this skill.  Prioritizing means admitting that you can’t do it all and on occasion saying NO when someone asks you to take on an additional responsibility.  As I begin to take an audit of the 2013 – 1014 school year (which is very quickly coming to a close), I realize that have not prioritized to the best of my ability.  I had too much on my plate.  I sacrificed pieces of my well being in the hopes of being able to do it all.  And that hasn’t worked for me.  And so I have to change.  Instead of trying to balance everything, I have to accept the fact that I can’t do it all.  And I have to do this is I’m going to survive a future in education.  I have to have outlets away from from the stress.  I have to set aside time for my own learning and development.  I have to remind myself of why this matters to me.  I can’t let myself burn out in the second year.  I won’t let that happen.

Let’s discuss further: Do you have the nasty habit of being glued to your e-mail?  What is the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up?  How do you prioritize the demands on your time?  Are you good at saying no?

© 2014, Jennifer Lesnick. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Food For Thought: Priorities

    • That sounds nice. I have gotten really into walking thanks to my fitbit. Unfortunately for me I wake up absurdly early in the morning since my work day starts so early. Walking around in the dark of 4 or 5 in the morning still freaks me out a lot.

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