One of the biggest challenges I frequently encounter is how to keep my routine without being too rigid about it. Teaching has been one of the most demanding things I’ve ever done, hands down. But finding routine and rhythm in the middle of the epic to-do list and other demands in life WITHOUT driving myself insane in the process has become a holy grail quest for me.
Lately, I have been working to be more intentional with my time–to use what breaks, gaps I have to do something that will make it just a little easier to relax at the end of the day, or that will help bring that end closer faster.
A few things I’ve picked up along the way have been ideas like batch cooking. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind eating the same meal a few (several?) days in a row, doing one round of cooking on a Sunday afternoon will save so much time during the week. I like hard boiled eggs at breakfast, so cooking a dozen or so on Sunday takes me 10 minutes and means I don’t have to really make myself breakfast on school days when I’m just trying to stumble out of bed. I’ve also portioned out oatmeal into small containers to take to work–I use the hot water in the water cooler and in a minute, I’m eating breakfast at my desk while I open up my work for the day. It doesn’t seem glamorous or exciting by any stretch, but simply not having to think about what to do about breakfast is easier and feels like less of an interruption to my already-struggling-to-wake-up brain.
Gretchen Rubin is an interesting thought leader that I’ve really appreciated over the last couple of years and her one-minute rule has been invaluable. Essentially, if I can do it in less than a minute, I don’t delay. At the end of the day, I spend less than a minute going to the closet, grabbing an outfit that looks good and putting it on the hook next to my bed. Or I throw baggies/containers of my pre-cut veggies, pre-made meals and throw them in a bag in the fridge so all I have to do is grab them on the way out the door in the morning. I don’t know exactly how much *time* I’m necessarily saving, but it makes my mornings smoother, which speaks for itself.
The part where I struggle, though, is in feeling not-so-flustered when something (inevitably) crops up and rustles the apples in the cart. I take a backpack to school that usually has my computer, datebook/notebook, iPod, exercise clothes, and any resources I need for any tutoring or lessons I might have that day. The day goes: walk to work, teach classes, read or study Korean at lunch, finish school, go straight to the gym, exercise and shower, go to tutoring and then come home to practice guitar/read a book/watch some TV with Jerry. At least, that’s the ideal routine when I’m not realizing that I’ve forgotten a sports bra (BIG FAIL) or left my breakfast at home (minor fail).
Blame my control-freak, anal-retentive tendencies. I like to think I thrive on routine, but when something throws me off of the routine early in the week, it feels like the consequences ripple all the way through to Friday. If I don’t spend time doing my meal/snack prep on Sunday, by Friday, I’ve gone a week with running to the on-campus convenience store for string cheese and an apple, which means time lost for things like answering questions my students approach me with between classes, or not being able to print homework assignments between classes and then realizing the printer is now occupied by another teacher with two reams worth of work being spit out… You get the idea.
Mostly this is me being a little too Type A for my own good. Ultimately, the copies will be made, but maybe it means I come to class a minute or two late (something my students don’t seem to have a problem with). The fact that a convenience store exists on campus and that it is just downstairs is actually kind of a saving grace–on the mornings where I’m wiped and can’t make coffee or have forgotten my snacks, it helps to know that that resource is there and I don’t have to go through my day decaffeinated or hangry. (Ultimately a win for myself AND my students.) But I have to work on the attitude problem that makes me feel like I’ve somehow failed or am sucking at life for not being totally “together” at that moment.
Life is setbacks and mix-ups and messiness and dealing with all that that entails. So learning to give myself a bit of grace to relax and realize things are not nearly as stressful or flustering as my knee-jerk reaction tends to assume goes a long way to keep a mental peace sustained through the week. I’m starting to ‘get it.’
And though it be instant, even convenience store coffee is still coffee and let us all say a prayer of thanks for that… Now, back to lesson planning for me.