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  • Writer's pictureLyndsay Boysen

Back to School Edition: How Vacation Changed my Mindset

And just like that…we are back to school. I just got back from a lengthy vacation. Part of the vacation was our annual trip to the beach, a long standing family tradition that is full of sun, surf, food and lots of late night board games and chats. This year was extra special though, because after 20 plus years of watching turtle nests protected up and down the beach, we

finally witnessed 61 sea turtles hatch and make their way safely to the ocean. There was something incredibly magical about witnessing such a rare event and it caused a profound shift in my mindset as I entered this school year.

My husband and I seriously questioned the timing of this lengthy vacation, knowing that when we returned, both of us would jump back into school the very next morning. This would leave us with limited opportunities to get organized, plan, and do our back to school shopping. I suppose the last few weeks of summer have always felt like an adjustment or transitional period, one that tends to be full of anxiety, bittersweet sadness and a push to get all the summer list items accomplished. This year was different and I may just make it an annual tradition. It surprisingly gave our family the gift of fun, connection and relaxation up till the very end. There were also some eye opening lessons learned along the way about productivity, intentional time management and the health benefits that come from spontaneity and varying routines.

First and foremost, our decision to travel up until the very last minute of summer break challenged me to really question the definition of productivity and my ability to set boundaries. Society glorifies this idea that the more hours you put in, the more productive and successful you must be. Sadly, this suggests that our work ethic, creative process, and individual skill sets are measured simply by how many hours we are working. Arriana Huffington, CEO of the Huffington Post, once said, “We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.” This couldn’t be more true. I found enormous success planning for the start of my school year by making an intentional plan for task completion before I left. I set email correspondence boundaries, chose to take a pause on LB Integrative, and decided that our driving days would be when I completed my syllabi and curriculum for the new school year. This intentional work time resulted in incredible productivity, new ideas, creativity and a fair amount of motion sickness. But at the end of the day, I got the work done and when I wasn’t in the car, I wasn’t working.

Taking time away from my work, established routines and responsibilities also reminded me that intentional time management is the only way that we can ensure that our days, weeks and months are full of all the things that fuel our mind, body and spirit and bring us joy. Recently, I was listening to a podcast where the guest, Laura Vanderkam, was discussing the pros and cons of our society's obsession with the 24-hour day. Instead, Vanderkam advocates that we think of our time in 168 hour blocks (that’s how many hours in a week!). This allows us the flexibility to schedule our work, family, hobbies, and other self care in a way that isn’t as limiting and stressful as a traditional 24 hour block. I really love this model for teachers. It creates a more practical and realistic timeline for scheduling life outside of work, without the stress of “squeezing” everything into one busy day. If you are a teacher that struggles with the monotony of the day to day routine, this is a great way to reimagine what your time looks like.

Finally, I have challenged myself to create new experiences outside of school and work that are out of my comfort zone and routine. Why is this good for health and wellness? Our brains crave organization and routine and, luckily, we are in a profession that is modeled around schedule and routine. When it comes to knowing what we need to do when, our scheduled work hours are pretty defined and that makes our brains happy and allows us to be consistently productive on a daily basis. On the other hand, our brains also thrive, grow and heal through spontaneity, changing up routine, learning a new skill, or embarking on a new adventure. As teachers, we are familiar with the brain development and neuroplasticity of our students. As adults, we don’t often consider that as we age, our plasticity declines. One way that we can ensure that our brains continue to work optimally is to challenge them daily with new skills, experiences and challenges.

5 Quick Mindset Shifts to Improve Work/Life Balance

  1. A clear physical and mental separation between when you are working and when you are not. It is so hard, but so important.

  2. Think of your weekends as mini vacations. You still need to take real vacations, but if you intentionally hold that space in your calendar and schedule what brings joy in your life, you have already taken one step closer to better balance and less burn out.

  3. Consider the 168 hour time management method. If you crave organization that also allows you more freedom and flexibility, this is the method for you!

  4. Schedule something each week that is not part of your established routine. It can be as simple as driving a new route to work, trying a new recipe or food, exploring a different fitness class or challenging your mind with a puzzle or game.

  5. Have a big project, papers to grade, a blog to write? Schedule a productivity block. It will reduce your stress and limit procrastination.

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