One of my favorite inspirational leadership books is by the author Jon Gordon. The book is called The Energy Bus. If you haven't read it you need to. It will help you approach your days with a positive outlook on what you are about to face, who you are, who you work with, and what you want to accomplish. I especially bring up this book now because we are in a world where you cannot hear a podcast or read a blog or an article without hearing someone talk about burnout and overwhelm. It can be easy to be caught in the negative energy world. You might start thinking that every day is a problem. The world starts looking bleak. If this is the case then you might be hanging out with the wrong friends. These people make you feel that only bad is happening. They suck the fun out of the day. Jon refers to them as "energy vampires."(Gordon, 73-75). As adults we often remind kids that they need to hang out with others who are positive influences. Unfortunately, we fail to follow our own advice. Jon says, "You must surround yourself with a positive support team... and the people we surround ourselves with have a big influence on the life and success we create." (Gordon, 73). The same goes with us as educators. The more you listen and read about the problems of your life the more you feel like the world is on your shoulders. The "energy vampires" are loose and in control.
Yes the past few years have been problematic. The Pandemic created some serious issues and more and more is expected from educators when it comes to addressing the needs of kids. Don’t fall victim to the bombardment from the energy drain that will happen when you focus on the negative instead of the positive. Often times we are overwhelmed and we need to understand how to address what is creating the issues that are causing you to feel this way.
Let's look at what overwhelmed and burned out mean to me. These terms are constantly used and shared as if they are the same. Here are my thoughts about the two.
- Overwhelm – Too much going on. I can't keep up. I feel like quitting.
- Burned out – I don't care. I give up. I'm done. I have quit.
In the state of overwhelm what you may really need is a break. Take a long weekend and do something for yourself. Spend some time with a work friend, spouse, your family, kids, or just you. Read a book for fun, build a plastic model, take in a movie, or maybe go camping or fishing. Then get some help to take a look at why you are overwhelmed. Here are some possible thoughts that may be making you feel like you are drowning:
- You have lessons that need planning.
- You have papers that need grading.
- You have parents that need your attention.
- You have meetings that you must attend.
- You have some program or technology that you are expected to learn.
- You are a club sponsor and you need to orchestrate and attend and assist kids with whatever that club is and does plus get your other job requirements done.
- You feel that you can't find time to spend with your family.
There is so much to being a successful teacher. Life becomes demanding and at some point you want to scream. Here are some thoughts about addressing these demands on your time.
- Use an electronic calendar
- Make use of your planning time for planning.
- Know when you are procrastinating.
- Know when you need to say no.
Can you address your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly requirements by using your electronic calendar to schedule when you need to do what has to be done? Something that I like about the tech that is at our disposal today is the electronic calendar. I attended numerous time management courses during the early days of my career but these had one main problem – me. I was expected to carry around a planner and fill it out. I was expected to remember to always have it with me and to always check it to make sure that I was staying up to date on what I had to accomplish. With electronic planners and calendars it is right there on my phone, tablet or other device. I already have these with me wherever I go. I can set alarms that get my attention and will annoy me until I respond if I set them up that way. I can color code for importance. I can learn how to use templates that help me schedule and address emails and attend those monthly meetings. I love this. Do you know how many deadlines I have met as a result of the electronic calendar? As a note, I find that I am not caught off guard because I double booked myself or forgot that I had a command performance meeting with a supervisor. The electronic calendar can help you deal with overwhelm by helping you schedule your time. Scheduling your time is important. The stuff in our lives requires you to be organized at work as well as with family.
If you are an educator you want to work in an environment in which you have planning time. Planning time is important for doing exactly what the names says, planning. Whether by yourself or with colleagues this time of the day needs to be committed to creating lessons and scheduling events and handling paperwork. It needs to be used by you to seek assistance for addressing difficult situations in the classroom or connecting with instructional coaches to get ideas on how to engage the learners. It is time to learn new skills and seeking out an administrator or other colleague who might be able to assist you with figuring out how to deal with that student issue or instructional need in your classroom. Take advantage of that time. Use it. It is so easy to sometimes just want to talk about anything when you could be using the time to address what causes you stress during the day. Stay focused and use this time wisely. As a note, when you are seeking places to help kids and families the planning period is something that I would want to make sure was part of my day.
Procrastination can be your number one problem. Do you know when you are just wasting time? It is important to be honest with yourself and get you back on track. When you start procrastinating it means that you will have to find time later that day or the next to address what you should have gotten accomplished when you were not doing what you should have been doing. In other words you put yourself behind and add to feelings of overwhelm.
Being an educator usually means that you want to help others be successful. You want to be part of the solution. You say yes to every committee. You say yes to every pull on your time. Then you have to find time to get done what you still have to get finished. Thus you add to your feelings that you can't get ahead. You have to know the demands on your time and set priorities. The electronic calendar will help you with this. But you are the only one who can actually say no to someone. Just do it nicely.
As a note if you are truly burned out then maybe you need to find a new job. Maybe you need to actually have a heart to heart and decide whether working with kids is what you really want to do. Not all were meant to be educators. Feeling overwhelmed is common because you probably want to help everyone. Is it truly a calling for you. If it is, you work to help all kids work through difficulties and misunderstandings. You help kids deal with trying to figure out the present and the future. You work late hours and through weekends. You want to create a positive destination for all of the kids that you work with. This is why you need to get away from the "energy vampires." These energy suckers could be anyone that you hang around with or see on a daily basis. It could be the school culture as well as your next door neighbor on the hallway. You need to find that positive support group that will let you see the good that you are doing.
It would be easy to end right there, but I can't. I have to say that I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing teachers, support staff, administrators, colleagues, and so many more. They built me up. They encouraged me and made me see what was possible. When I got down they injected me with a good dose of positive energy. Seek to find your positive support group. Seek to use tools to assist you. John C. Maxwell talks about " The Elevator Principle" in his book - Winning with People: Discover the People Principles that Work for You Every Time. John shares his thoughts about adders, subtracters, multipliers, dividers, and lifters. According to John, "Many people in this world desire to help others. These people are adders. "(p.49) John also comments, there are people who "… Do not bear our burdens, and they make heavier the ones we already have." These are subtracters. (p. 51). He continues, " to go to another level in relationships - to become a multiplier - one must be intentional, strategic, and skilled. The greater the talent and resources a person possesses, the greater his potential to become a multiplier." (p. 51) He continues, "Dividers are people who will really 'take you to the basement' meaning they'll take you down as low as they can, as often as they can." (p. 52) Finally John notes that "You hold the power to make another person's life better or worse by the things you do today." "Lifters" (p.52) understand this and strive to make another person's day better. They "commit themselves to daily encouragement." (p. 53) Be a lifter and find a way to surround yourself with lifters. Suddenly overwhelm will become a thing of the past.
Jon Gordon | Bestselling Author and Keynote Speaker
Start Your Journey - John Maxwell
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-man-wearing-black-eyeglasses-3760132/