In October, I decided to focus on one habit each month that might … might … increase my joy. Specifically, my joy for my job.
Even though I didn’t write about it, I did, in fact, reflect on my October focus and decided a new focus for November. Reflections on October… My October goals were to eat well, be active, and sleep enough. None were executed perfectly, but all three habits were enough to positively affect my life and my job. I was particularly happy with my sleeping habits — and it stuck. I have been pretty consistent at going to bed at a reasonable hour in November as well.
However, my big reflection from October was that my focus was too big. What I want is one small thing that I can focus on doing consistently for a month, something that takes away stress and adds happiness, or at least helps me make room for things that add happiness. Just trying to go to the gym consistently is a big habit to build, and it relies on other, tiny but essential habits.
Reflections on November… In November, my focus was my “book of lists.” I use my Google calendar for everything, so I don’t really need a paper planner anymore, except for one purpose: my lists. I have one ongoing “to do” list. Anything that isn’t done at the end of the week is transferred to next week’s page. It includes things that aren’t related to what happens when the kids are in the room. Think grading papers, analyzing data, intervention paperwork, etc. I also have a daily list of things that I need to do for the actual teaching of the students, what will happen when they are in the room. My focus for November was to make my daily list before I left work each night. If I make my Tuesday list before I leave on Monday, I don’t have to spend energy on Monday night trying to remember things. It may sound silly, but you wouldn’t believe how often I have a thought, and then I think I need to keep thinking about it so I don’t forget. So much stress is taken away when I can dismiss the thought: “I wrote it down; my list will tell me in the morning. I don’t have to think about it anymore.”
It was amazing what a big difference such a little habit made! I spent just a couple of minutes making sure I had everything on the list that still needed to be done, and then I spent 13 or 14 hours completely free, not thinking about my job at all!
For December… Something that has been bugging me in November has been the mess. The piles. The cluttery corners. I suppose it shouldn’t matter, but I feel better in a clean, organized space.
But in my classroom, I have not always put in the effort to keep my classroom the way I like it.
Some of the mess is, in fact, inescapable, or even important. Kid-created stuff is messy, with handwriting of all different sizes and colors, and words spelled all kinds of ways, and lines are not straight, and papers do not stack neatly…. Beautiful, the mess we are in a first grade classroom.
But the cluttery mess that keeps a space from being usable…that is not beautiful! It is inconvenient and stressful, and gets in the way of me doing my job well. My habit for December will be spending a few minutes each day just cleaning up and putting away. In the afternoon after the kids leave but before I get started on whatever tasks I need to do, I will take a couple of loops around the room and neaten up a little bit. This will involve different areas and tasks on different days. I plan to just spend a few minutes on the most noticeable parts of the mess, whatever will make the biggest difference in how I feel in the space.
Here’s to feeling calm and productive in the physical space of my classroom in December!