“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.”
Prelude: As the summer approaches, I thought it would be helpful to share some thoughts on staying productive during your teaching break. Obviously, the focus is on fitness, but progress can and should be made in all areas of your life. Be on the lookout for a more in-depth, “How to Attack the Summer” kit in the future.
Ahhhhh….summer. When you ask a teacher why they are a teacher, “summer’s off” is mentioned within the first three things, usually first. I remember anxiously waiting for the last day of school. I think as a teacher, I looked forward to it more than when I was a student. I couldn’t wait to just relax and do all of the fun things I had been putting off all year. The thing is, usually I didn’t do many of them.
If you are anything like me or my friends who teach, the summer is full of plans and goals, most of which never happen. I plan to wake up early and be productive, but after a week or so, I’m sleeping in longer, staying up later, and generally spending more time watching TV and hanging out. Improving my fitness level is the furthest thing from my mind. And, this caught up with me, but more on that later. The crazy thing is that teachers get usually between 9 and 10 weeks off for summer. If there are 52 weeks in a year, that is about 20% of the year they have little to no work responsibility. Now, it varies from year to year, and many teachers attend conferences, trainings and other workshops, but many, like myself waste a lot of time. I look back now on my 10 year teaching career, and can’t think of one summer where I really gained any significant ground on my long term goals. This is both disheartening and discouraging. But, the past is the past, and today is a new day. So, hopefully, I can help you avoid the same mistakes I’ve been making. The summer should be a time of personal productivity and growth. All areas of your life should get better, including your health and fitness levels. But, it can’t and won’t happen without a plan. Here are a few steps to consider.
1. Set Summer Goals. If you could improve 3 things in your life right now, what would they be? If you are stuck, look at the three F’s: Family, Fitness, and Finances. Pick three things you want to change. They don’t have to be things that you can complete by the end of the summer, but they do need to be measurable. Write these goals down specifically. Where are you? What do you want to change? And, what will the outcome be? Write them down with specifics and then you can track them in a later step. If you are having trouble, go back to the 3 F’s and pick a goal from each area.
2. Set a Bed Time. Your parents were right, a bed time is important. The summer is a really difficult time to get to bed at a consistent early hour. When I was teaching, I found myself going to bed between 10-11pm most nights in order to get enough sleep for the next day. However, once summer hit, I was ready to stay up late. And, the crazy thing is, I wasn’t really doing anything. I was basically watching TV, playing video games, hanging out with friends, eating half price appetizers at Applebees, you know the good life. The problem with this scenario is that when I would go to bed later, I would inevitably wake up later and this started me off to an unproductive day. Even if you don’t have the luxury of sleeping in as late as you want because you have young kids, you will still wake up with less energy because of your night owl ways. It is fun to stay up late, but again what is the priority for your summer? And, don’t tell me it’s to “relax”. That was my excuse to take 20% of my life for the last 10 years and be lazy. Your pace can be slower during the summer, but you still need to be productive. Set a bed time and stick to it. Now I know there will be times when this isn’t possible, but this should be the exception not the rule. And, when you stray from your bedtime, you should still get up at the same early time. This will encourage you to go to bed on time the next night. Once you start sleeping in, it will take a major effort to get back on track. It’s much easier to stay on track than it is to get on track.
3. Every Sunday Make a Plan. Write down all of the things you want to do for the week (strength train, walk, run, yardwork, read, spend time with your family, etc). Set a time limit for each goal and how many times during the week you plan to do each activity. And then, as the week progresses, check off each time you accomplish your goal. This has the psychological benefit of seeing tasks being accomplished and goals being met, but it also adds a level of accountability because if you don’t get it done you see it and remember it. If you don’t write it down, it is really easy to forget and ignore, trust me I’m an expert on that. I have included Darren Hardy’s Weekly Rhythm Register. This is a simple tool you can use to help you track your progress. I am also including a copy of one of my Weekly Rythym Registers, (WRR) so that you can see an example of how to fill it out and use it. Also, I decided to add my Spring Break WRR to show how much more productive I was over the break (SpringBreakWRR). I know there is nothing to compare it to, but trust me this was THE MOST productive break I have ever had. And, surprisingly I felt more refreshed at the end of the break. This is the first break I ever used it, and the benefits were clear as day. Even though I fell well short of my goals, I accomplished much more than I normally do on my breaks. Try it for the first three weeks of summer, and if you aren’t convinced it is helping you be more productive then throw out the idea and curse me for wasting probably 15-20 minutes of your time the last three weeks. I am confident you will be emailing me instead thanking me for helping you maximize your summer time.
4. Track Your Progress Throughout the Week. It does you no good to make a plan if you aren’t tracking it and using it to help you reach your goals. The most effective way I have found to track your progress is to do it nightly. You need to stay consistent and build it into your nightly routine. The faster you can make it a habit, the easier it will be. This point is critical to your success. Numerous studies show that tracking your behavior is one of the most effective ways to change habits. This is pretty straight forward. Just like looking at data for student progress allows you to adjust your lesson plans, so too habit data allows you to improve your behaviors.
These are four small steps any teacher can take to improve the quality of their lives. I cannot emphasize enough how important fitness is in the overall enjoyment of life. For most of my career as a teacher, I neglected my health and fitness, but now that I have seen the error of my ways, I am trying to shout from the mountaintops to help my fellow teachers avoid these pitfalls.
EVERY DAY GETTING BETTER