How Do We Balance Our Lives in a Very Unbalanced World? Part 1

Author: Connley Skeen
May 7, 2020


“There is no bell schedule at my home address”

We are in uncharted waters as educators. We have fought many battles over the years outside our Circle of Influence such as booming class ratios, overwhelming poverty, inadequate funding models, student apathy, state testing mandates, and knee-jerk curriculum implementations. We have continued to produce paradigm-shifting results despite all these barriers. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to fundamentally change our daily lives for the foreseeable future, particularly our ability to join together with others, and how we approach education and learning. The debate over the solutions to these issues will be explored in depth by millions attempting to grapple with the “new normal” in the coming weeks and months, so let’s leave that discussion for another time. 

It has never been more important than now to focus on the effectiveness in YOU (or the “Goose,” as Dr. Covey would say). 

I had a conversation recently with a Lighthouse Team coordinator at one of our Leader in Me schools in South Carolina.  She shared how unsettling it was to have school in session without all the “background noise” that occurs during a typical school day: announcements, duty responsibilities, and THE BELLS.  She felt lost without the hourly bell reminders reinforcing the simple routines of a school day.  For the first time in her 23-year career, she didn’t know how to manage her workday.  

I vividly remember the dependence I had on the bell schedule at school early in my teaching career.  I would joke with my fellow teachers that we were like trained rats in a B.F. Skinner experiment. It is true, however, that we humans are very predictable, and our minds, although quite a bit more complex, love routine and predictable environments just as much as Skinner’s rats did. So the absence of our usual daily routine has the potential to significantly disrupt our flow and create myriad problems like increased anxiety levels, mild forms of depression, and sleep related difficulties (too much or not quite enough).  The question becomes: how do we balance our lives in a very unbalanced world?

As a starting point, I would like to invite you to practice authentic conversations and utilize some exercises for your personal planning time or collectively with members of your family.  

Tips on Balancing our Lives

Go to our website and check out this video – “Be Where You Are” 

  1.       Use a bound journal for all your notes and ideas.   Planning with sticky notes is only as effective as the adhesive on the back of the sticky note.  A lined, undated, bound journal should be the only depository for all your ideas and notes.  It can become a great resource for notes, contact information, and an account of your busy days.
  2.       Make appointments on your calendar for yourself. For example, if you need to prepare an assessment or activity for an upcoming lesson, make an appointment for a specific time (default an hour) in your paper or digital calendar.  No more task or to-do lists: start building it into your calendar.  A real plus: digital calendars give you reminders!
  3.       What is for dinner?  The four words that add immense stress to each normal day.  Now we have three meals at home to plan and worry about!  Use a whiteboard or bulletin board to plan your meals as a family unit and assign meal prep Leadership Roles for everyone in your family.
  4.       Clean up your e-mail inbox. Our brains cannot handle the mess of your inbox.  We will have a blog about e-mail management in the coming weeks, but for now, start with deleting or filing old emails.  Research suggests that you have no more than 25 active emails in your inbox at the close of each day to maximize your efficiency and chances at sanity. 
  5.       Sleep Schedules. Keep your family on a predictable schedule for wake-up, meals, and bedtime.  An upcoming blog will address the magic number of hours of sleep you need each night and week to be the most productive.   

Growth Opportunity and Family/Accountability Partner Questions and Activities

  • What is the one thing (that you are not doing now) which could make a huge impact on your personal/family life?
  • Though we may not be sure when it will happen, eventually we will be able to safely resume much of our pre-COVID routine. What are some aspects or benefits of this “stay safe, stay home” era that you want to keep?
  • Have everyone in your home create a list of the top ten things that they want to do as a family over the next few weeks.  Compare lists and make a FAMILY TOP 10 INDOOR BUCKET LIST.  Don’t forget about the simple things: planting a garden, playing games, cooking, crafting, cleaning up the house, watching all the Harry Potter movies, etc.  


    My 17 year old shared yesterday how bored she was and said:“I was watching a video of a dog chasing his tail and I thought ‘dogs are so easily amused.’  Then I realized I was watching the dog chase his tail for over two minutes.”

Connley Britt Skeen, Senior Education Consultant
[email protected]   Twitter- @cbskn

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