A Friday Chat About Work-Life Balance

Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash.

SAMANTHA: How are you doing today?

NICOLE: Good! A little tired. It’s been a long week. But very exciting for The Billfold! How about you?

SAMANTHA: I’m pretty good. It’s been my first full week back at work since before Christmas, so it’s been interesting to get back into the groove of working.

NICOLE: What’s your work groove like?

SAMANTHA: I’m a teacher, so it’s getting up early, getting to school, instruction for three hours, then lunch and recess with my kids. Then another two hours of instruction, then dismissal. After school is when I take care of grading/planning/organizing.

NICOLE: Nice! What grade?

SAMANTHA: First grade! It’s self-contained, so I spend all day with the same group of kids.

NICOLE: First graders are so great! I remember loving first grade. We got to read books and learn how to write, which are two things that I am still very excited about.

SAMANTHA: Ahah, yes! It’s the where you really get started on all my favorite things in life. What is your work groove like?

NICOLE: I try to stick to a 9-to-5 for as much as I can. It would be really easy for me to say “I can take on one more assignment!” but that’s the quick path to exhaustion and burnout. The extra cash is rarely worth it.

SAMANTHA: So sticking to those hours helps give you some balance, right?

NICOLE: Yep, and it helps me decide when the day is over. I also take a 30-min walk in the middle of the day, to break up the computer staring and get a bit of sun. Usually I have my workday planned out by hour (I’ll work on Project A from 9-10, then check email from 10-10:30, etc.) but that’s way in the weeds.

SAMANTHA: That sounds awesome! I appreciate the detail and thought that goes into that level of planning.

NICOLE: It took me about three years of freelancing to figure out what worked. I used to get up and start working right away and not get out of my pajamas until like 1 p.m., and that wasn’t great for me.

SAMANTHA: Did that kind of make it feel like you weren’t fully working, but didn’t have free time either?

NICOLE: It was more like I wanted to get ahead on my assignments, so I started working as soon as I woke up, but then by the time I wanted to shower and eat a food I’d be in the middle of edit requests and emails from clients. And then I’d feel like “if I take 20 minutes to shower and change clothes and dry my hair instead of answering this email, my editor will be DISPLEASED.” Which is probably not true, but… we all know how email works.

SAMANTHA: Oh yeah, that wouldn’t be a great pattern to have.

NICOLE: Switching to “business hours” and getting fully dressed before working was a smart move. What about you? I know that teachers do a lot of after-hours work and can feel pressured to go above and beyond. How do you stay balanced?

SAMANTHA: That’s a good question, and it’s something that I struggle with. I think a lot of good teachers get burned out because they just spend all their time on school and don’t have a life outside of it. I think a lot of it is knowing what’s important, and knowing what isn’t important. For me, I think it’s really important to have good classroom management and good instruction and good data, but I put some stuff on the back burner. My classroom isn’t all that cute because I don’t think it matters that much. My bulletin boards aren’t amazing. I planned that this year, I would set a time and just say that I’m not going to do any work after, say, 7. That didn’t end up working out.

NICOLE: It’s hard to stick to that kind of deadline! Especially when the work isn’t done!

SAMANTHA: Yeah! I feel like when school is over, I need like half an hour to decompress, so that’s usually half an hour I’m not spending working on all the things.

NICOLE: Me too. I generally spend my first half hour after work watching YouTube or finding some mindless AskReddit thread to scroll.

SAMANTHA: Yep. I usually scroll through Instagram.

NICOLE: I’ve done that! And then your evening is made up of a limited amount of half hours, and you’ve just used up one. But still. It feels necessary.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, it’s just hard. Just not enough hours in the day to do all the things that I want to do along with the things I need to do.

NICOLE: Hahaha, kind of like that “not enough dollars to put all the places I want and need them to go” problem we discussed earlier today. And on that note — let’s go stare at some mindless internet for 30 minutes and then enjoy our weekends!

SAMANTHA: Yeah! Have a wonderful weekend!

NICOLE: You as well.


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