Work is like a gas.
It expands to fill its allotted space.
As a teacher, I have fixed hours: 8:30-4:30 M-F. That time is entirely consumed with meetings, conferences, tutoring and, let’s not forget, instruction. That means that I have to find time outside of that window to prepare lessons, write materials and grade papers.
In my old life, I let that work expand unbounded into all areas of my life. I showed up at work at 7:00 when the custodians were the only other life in the building. I worked in the evenings, grading papers while watching a movie with my husband. Half of my Saturday would be spent in front of the computer, planning lessons and writing materials. Even vacations weren’t sacred – I would frequently have a bag of work by my feet as we drove off to some destination.
During the divorce, I realized that I needed to set boundaries. I still came into school early, but I refused to take work home. I liked that morning time – it was bound by the bell that started the day. Much to my surprise, I found that I could still get done much of what I needed to. The lessons weren’t as fleshed out, but my years of experience had long since made that unneccessary. The activities weren’t as neat and typo-free, but it turns out that 8th graders don’t really care (or even notice) and a type doesn’t limit learning. Occasionally, I felt rushed or unprepared when something came up unexpectedly at the last moment. But that happened when I worked all of the time, too.
Last year, when I started my 28 day mediation challenge, I pushed my start time back to 7:30 so that I a few precious moments in the morning where I could meditate without having to get up at an even more ridiculous time. It was heaven. I arrived at work rested and calm. The centered mind more than made up for the missing half hour.
This year, I told myself that I would start the year by going in at 7:00 to allow time for the added workload of the beginning of the school year. I promised myself that I would move that back to 7:30 by the end of the 1st quarter.
It’s now the 3rd quarter and I’ve only walked through the doors after 7:00 a handful of times. In fact, it’s been closer to 6:45 on most mornings.
What went wrong? Why am I allowing this time? Do I really need it or am I just afraid that I will fall behind if I do not allow that extra half hour? I’ve been feeling unbalanced with work this year – it’s taking more energy and causing more stress than I would like.
What would happen if I narrow its container? Bound it with walls that restrict its flow? Would that found time restore balance?
I intend to find out.