No matter what your race, multi-tasking is something that every educator must eventually learn to do in order to survive. Simply sitting in a classroom is never an option when you have to make sure that every student is on-task, one is asking to go to the restroom, another has a nosebleed, and little Timmy wants to know how to spell "encyclopedia".
Teaching is a multi-tasking profession, which is why many who are not prepared are easily overwhelmed, burnt-out, and eventually give up. In my experience, this was never an option, so I had to teach myself to become extremely organized in order to multitask effectively.
From day one of my teaching career, I have been a full-time student as well as a full-time teacher. In the beginning, I struggled to keep my schoolwork separate from my planning for work, and after a few mix ups and forgotten important assignments, I had to pull it together. Here are some things that I did to change my life completely and make doing too much look graceful and doable.
1. Use a planner.
I was going to say "get" a planner, but there were so many times earlier in life when I bought planners that I never used. I learned to invest in a planner that I could actually use- one with plenty of room for writing to detail out my plans and appointments, with enough space for goal planning and motivations for my day, week, month, and year.
The best one I have found so far is the Passion Planner. I first heard about it from one of my sisters, who is also quite a multi-tasker, so I applied and received a free planner through their philanthropic efforts when I shared my story. I currently use the academic version, and it is amazing! It can be a bit pricey, but it is soooo worth it. When I ordered mine this year, it came with a free smaller version, which I gifted to a friend. It is a great asset if you are goal-oriented, need to get a lot of different things done, and if you need a bit of organization and reminding to stay focused.
2. Dedicate time to relaxation.
There are only 24 hours in a day, but not all 24 need to be spent working. There were days when I taught classes from 8 am to 3:35 pm, then I had class from 4 pm to 10 pm. These days were my toughest, longest, and hardest to manage, but I set up my day so that I could relax in the morning during planning periods and lunch because otherwise I was running on Starbucks, which wasn't healthy. On days when I did not have classes, I would be sure to relax after work, lounging on the couch or reading a book for enjoyment, before tackling schoolwork. I also tried to dedicate my weekends to relaxation. There were always things to do, but I would usually sleep in, and dedicate at least a few hours of my afternoon to doing things that were non-work or school related.
3. Make friends with like-minded, positive, and encouraging people.
Sometimes when you have a lot on your plate, it is hard to remember that you are not alone and that your work is paying off. Good friends are not only with whom you can commiserate, but those who will bring you to your senses when you are being unrealistic. I made friends with people who also had other things going on outside of work, but who had a very positive outlook. We shared similar faiths, and were therefore able to encourage each other when we were stressed or needed to talk. Good friends will get you through a particularly rough week when no one else is able to help.
4. Don't fall into bad habits.
Procrastination is a habit that I admittedly have allowed to get me into some stressful situations. I work well under pressure, and when it came to the point where I needed to be under pressure to get things done, I knew that I had reach the point of no return. I learned to make my life a lot easier by stopping myself from putting things off until the last minute. I had to learn to be a lot more intentional with my work. The earlier I completed work, the sooner I noticed little mistakes, and the sooner I corrected those mistakes, the sooner I was done. When I waited until the last minute, I found myself pulling pointless all-nighters and torturing myself with rushing through necessary and important tasks and assignments, which is not fun at all!
5. Appreciate your experience.
Yes, times can be hard and they seem to only get worse, but appreciate the ability to live in the moment. Never take for granted the fact that there are so many people out there who wish that they could be in your shoes. Always remember that if you have a job, a place to live, food to eat, and something to smile about, you are blessed. I've learned to appreciate all of the things that come my way- good and bad- because they teach me to be better, stronger, and to work harder. Sure, I had to manage a lot between school and work, and it seemed almost impossible to give my best to either, but I needed to make it doable, so I did.
It's easy to punk out and complain that there is too much to do, but remember, YOU signed up for a job in education. We all know that teachers are overworked and undervalued, yet we choose this profession despite that knowledge. In the same way, being a multi-tasker means that many times the hardest days are only manageable depending on how you choose to view them. Taking classes, teaching classes, and working a couple of side jobs means that there will be tough days, long days, and days when you feel like giving up, but staying on top of everything is key. I hope these tips were as helpful as they were to me!