Sometimes I feel like the first grader who years ago looked at me and said, “You’re making my brain hurt! It’s going to explode all over the floor!” I looked at him and said, “Well, we’ll clean it up and put it back in!” I also vividly remember the high school student who said, “Why are you asking me so many questions? My other teachers just ask me to do the work. I don’t get it.” I looked at this sophomore and said, “My job is to teach you to think, not just give you things to do.”
Sometimes, as adults, our heads feel like they might explode and we wonder why others are asking us so many questions. I’m just thinking… I need to focus… I need to concentrate… I need to be able to do X, Y, and Z… But on top of X, Y, and Z, I am planning thoughtfully, swimming in 100+ emails, and trying to ensure that everything I do is precise and complete. With all of these aspects swirling around in my head: I slowly start feeling overwhelmed and experience high anxiety.
With this overwhelming feeling comes much joy with our profession. The joy outweighs how I feel, and I begin to think about the ways we (myself included) might fight off the anxiety and live in the moment – loving every minute of what we do. Here are five ways to help us slow down in this fast-paced world so we can focus on what’s important, opposed to just getting things done.
ONE: Remember: Someone else’s urgency is not always your urgency.
This one is simple. We must prioritize what we choose to take on and what we choose to put on the wait list. You are only ONE person and therefore you can only respond to so many needs at once and those responses need to fit within the vision you and your organization are striving to obtain. To help fend off a sense of urgency we can:
∗ Not respond immediately to texts, emails, phone calls unless it is truly an emergency. Set aside a time of day for those responses and set a timer. Once the timer goes off (depending on how much time you are devoting to it) then move on to your next project.
∗ Ask a question for the person to think about and problem solve on their own
∗ Recommend a few others to connect with that might help
∗ Schedule a time to think about the issue (as long as you are ensuring a balance in your schedule so you can get your work done too)
You being productive in your position and doing what you need to do is what yields gains. If you are constantly taken away from your focus, then the impact you can make lessens.
TWO: Love the grey!
When we accept that life is grey, it becomes much easier to manage. What do I mean by that? Well, learning is messy. Growth is messy. Nothing about building knowledge base and understandings is easy. It’s not black and white. The minute we own that our work will be “messy” and we embrace this messiness we have chosen to love the grey. Our best learning does not happen in comfortable situations. It occurs when we feel most uncomfortable. We have to experience cognitive dissonance and challenge. Ellin Keene often says we must savor the struggle. Well, the struggle is the grey. If we love the grey, the storm we are experiencing will be met with sunshine after!
THREE: Conquer each day with a growth mindset
Carol Dweck’s book about Growth Mindset has been read by many educators, but how do we use this idea of “growth mindset” to approach each and every day? When feeling overwhelmed, I can think I am never going to finish but with a growth mindset, I might say, well I am not going to be able to get to that YET. The power of YET as Dweck states truly encourages us that it will happen one day, just not now and that’s okay. Additionally, when given a task where my knowledge level is not as high as I feel it needs to be, I say I don’t know it yet but can learn. I then study others, read, and begin to develop my understandings in collaboration with others. Having a growth mindset means we can tackle projects in a way that will be successful because we believe that we can learn or lean on others to make it happen.
FOUR: Be present in the moment
This one is hard for me. Researchers and educators such as Jim Knight, Ann Hoffman, and more discuss the importance of being present in the moment. When we are with others, truly show them we are listening. It’s hard for me because I feel like I constantly need to check my email, my phone, and so forth to stay on top of everything. But if I remember that someone’s sense of urgency is not my urgency then my phone gets turned over and my laptop or email closed so I can be fully present and show the person or people I’m working with that I am here with you, 100%. Those emails, texts, and other tasks are not going away. Though this is hard for me, it is the one area I’ve really been working on. I want to show others I care. That I am here for them and willing to listen. I do this best in professional development sessions I lead. I do it least when in meetings and I’m trying to “multi-task” (which truly is not possible like we think it is). So, instead of trying to multi-task, it is more productive to put it away and just be present. Everything else will be waiting after.
FIVE: Every needs grace!
We strive for perfection yet perfection is the enemy. Instead, we should strive for growth. Growth in ourselves, growth in others, and growth in ideas. This means that as humans we will all mess up. We will make mistakes. When this happens to a colleague, always assume positive intent. Try to understand where that person is coming from – their perspective. Be okay with the idea that it wasn’t perfect or it is not done yet (notice, the use of yet)! We all need to give grace as much as we want others to do the same for us. Giving grace means that you put yourself in the person’s shoes and understand the why behind it. Do not dwell on what did not happen – instead, compliment what did happen and come up with a plan of how to move forward. The majority of us approach our work with extreme dedication, passion, and love. Therefore, when we “fall” or make a mistake, we are often hard on ourselves. We need our colleagues to help lift us up and give grace so we can continue to move forward.
These are just 5 ways that I handle this fast-paced world. What do you do? Respond below.
Until then collaborate, lead, and coach,