How’s your work-life balance?

Yesterday, I got out of Palermo for the first time since the Christmas holiday. It was also the first day since the Christmas holiday that I didn’t do something ELT-related – be it teaching (obviously, 5 days a week), teaching-related admin, prepping for teaching, marking, IHCYLT course modules/assignments/portfolio tasks, blogging, reading ELT-related books/journal articles/blogs, preparing for my webinar etc. It was lovely to actually see a bit of Sicily (which turns out to be rather beautiful when you get out of the city – which isn’t a bad city, but is a city!) to go horse-riding, enjoy the wonderful colour of the countryside and relax! It was also quite an effort, getting up early to get the station for an early train, after a tiring week at work – but so worthwhile.

Now, one of my resolutions for this year was to achieve a better work-life balance – do you think I’m succeeding? I’d say I’m not. And now that the IHCYLT has come to an end, I feel it is time to do something about that… Now that I don’t need to divide my weekends between course-related work and recovery/sorting life and flat out/batch cooking etc, I would like to start getting out of the city on Saturdays and doing day-trips to see a bit of the beautiful surrounding countryside and towns. So that when it eventually becomes time to leave Sicily, I’ve actually seen something of it. I think the thing about doing the ELT thing abroad is that unless you are proactive and make time for it, do something about it, you just end up working and not seeing much of where you are, which is a shame really. At this rate, when my visitors come here during the Easter break, they will end up seeing more in that week than I will have seen in nearly 7 months. On the plus side, I will be seeing it with them! 😉

Ironically, next Saturday I’ve got my first Palermo-based social commitment in a while and in a couple of weeks I’m pretty sure there’s some more Speaking examiner training which I shall be doing. (Unless it’s on a Friday this time, I can’t remember…)  However, that aside, when there are no other commitments, I want to commit myself to getting out and about! There is life outside of ELT (believe it or not!) and I’d like to taste that part too. So that even if all the rest of the time I sleep, breathe, speak and live ELT, there is ONE day a week where I DON’T. Where I switch off, do something else, go somewhere else, think about something else.

So that’s me. And in thinking about me, of course I started to wonder about the rest of the ELT world. Are you all as obsessed as I am? Or are you better at managing the whole work-life balance thing? Do you leave work at work during the week? I find that difficult. When I’m not actually at work prepping, doing admin or teaching, which doesn’t leave much time anyway as I’m at work between 9 and 11 hrs a day, I’m either anticipating what’s to come (if it’s morning before I go in) or my brain is spinning with what’s been done (if it’s night and I’m finally home). I often dream about it, I generally wake up thinking about what I’ve got to do at work (or worrying, if there’s a lot on to remember!) and it takes time for my mind to stop spinning when I go to bed at night (despite always reading for 40 mins before bed, non-ELT related things that is!). If I wake up during the night, sometimes I can’t get back to sleep because my brain starts thinking about work. I do other things in the morning before I go to work (study Italian, do yoga) but it’s always there at the back of my mind. Yet, I’m *sure* the sky would not fall and the world would not end if I weren’t like this! I’d just be less strung out :-p

So, to reiterate my earlier questions, the answers to which I’m interested to hear/see, and to add a few more: What is your work-life balance like? How do you manage it? Do you leave work at work during the week? How about weekends? If you have reached a good work-life balance, have you always been able to do that or did you have to work at it? Any tips for me? 😉

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11 thoughts on “How’s your work-life balance?

  1. I’m so pleased you’ve finally managed to get some time to get out of the city and explore 🙂 While not quite to the same extent as you, a very considerable proportion of my time is spent on ELT. I have a Russian lesson on Saturdays, so I’m trying to dedicate that day to improving my Russian, although that hasn’t worked brilliantly yet. I want Sundays to be my exploration day, but the cold and the wind are still putting me off somewhat. I really need to work at motivating myself to go out, but when I do, I never feel guilty about it. Any work-life balance I have now has been a long time coming, and has mostly been the result of a year of Delta-induced stress and illness. So much healthier now, but still needs work! One thing I’m trying very hard to do is only do school stuff during school hours (9-8 some days), and to do things I want to do outside that time, whether or not they’re ELT-related.
    Looking forward to seeing what other people have to say about this!
    Sandy

    • I know what you mean about needing to really work motivate self to go out! I don’t feel guilty when I do non-ELT stuff, at all, just that I have usually ended up doing it at the expense of other stuff. And that’s fine, but only up to a point. Beyond which it becomes ridiculous. :-p My M.A./Delta year is what got me in to living and breathing ELT non-stop but this year, after that crazy year, this job, I was supposed to chill on that and take it easy a bit. That was the plan. That was why I went for a teaching job, not a senior teaching job or a DoS job or anything else, just a teaching job. But all I have done is make tons more work for myself with all the extra things I’ve taken on, like the IHCYLT, the speaking examiner training, the webinar, the IH Journal column, the learner autonomy projects at work, the related extra reading, experimentation with stuff at work, writing an article for the MaW SIG newsletter etc. Doh. On the other hand, all these things are things that interest me and excite me (with the exception of the IHCYLT which I did because I had to address the issue of being a crap YL teacher! And it was gruelling experience, although rewarding too) and I’d find it difficult to work without spicing it up with extra things. I think what I need to get better at is a) getting out a day a weekend, as now planned and b) not stressing about work outside of work. Leave work thoughts for at work. Difficult though that may be :-p
      But I feel better already just for making that decision, re the weekends, and having had a day out, rather than just continuing blindly to work myself into the ground! 🙂
      Also looking forward to others’ comments…
      Good luck with the Russian and Sundays out! I only chose Saturdays cos the trains are better…

  2. very pertinent post for me also; I have just decided to accept a 30+ teaching hour week for the next 3 months after considering my EFL career because of stress, tiredness and basically having no life. I have free days on Saturdays, which is basically stay in bed till lunchtime and then band practice on Sunday and that is it; is that balanced enough? here’s counting down the days to the World cup where I’ll be taking an extended holiday!!

    • I’ve got a long holiday (one month) in June – is nice to have it to look forward to! 🙂 But I’m not wishing away my time here though. I think basically everything would be great in ELT world if there were just more hours in a day and more days in a week (esp weekend days), so that you could put heart and soul into your work, as one does, and but still have time to a) recover and b) have a life too!
      Good luck with your commitments!

  3. Hi Lizzie, have enjoyed reading other articles you have written and this one was no different. I know when I was doing my dip, my life seemed to not belong to me, but I would try to say at the weekends – this is my dip time and this is my “me time”. Think you should keep on with your exploration of Sicily, as you said, you felt better for it and that will only motivate you more to get on with all the things that you have taken on in ELT. Not stressing about work when you’re not there will come if you are doing other things and also you shouldn’t feel guilty. I know I used to wake up in the night thinking of things that I needed to do for work, but have learnt to switch off.
    Good luck with all your projects!

    • Hi Cathy,
      Thank you – I’m glad you have enjoyed what I have written. For me, when I was studying, it was all “this is my dip time” – but I did exercise regularly and do yoga regularly, which saved me!
      I’m thinking of having a little notebook to hand so that when I have a thought/worry, I can make a note of it and deal with it in working hours… Maybe it will help me with the “learning to switch off” thing! 🙂

      • Hi Lizzie, a little notebook is a good idea, think I did the same in the past, and it helped me. If you’ve written it down, you can then “forget” it until you are back at work, and if you are inspired by something, you can make a note and come back to it.
        Looking forward to other posts in the future 🙂

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