Last evening I drove to our local pizza shop to pick up our order: large white pizza with spinach, tomato, and garlic. This is a once-a-month treat, and picking up the pizza usually takes 10 minutes, round trip. My trip took a bit longer than usual, not because the pizza wasn’t ready, but because I couldn’t find a parking spot. You see, Peppi’s Pizza is right next door to a gym and it was mobbed! Good grief, dozens of men and women in spanking new workout gear were swarming the parking lot and gym, the likes of which I’ve never seen. Then it dawned on me — they all made New Year’s resolutions to exercise! When I told my husband why I was late with the pizza, he laughed and said he has observed this uptick in attendance at the YMCA, as well. “Don’t worry,” he said, “by next month, you’ll have your choice of parking spots!” And that is the way it goes with resolutions: a strong, determined start often gives way to dwindling effort. An article in Psychology Today a few years back explains why. In a nutshell, our resolutions are typically “large actions,” such as “I’ll go to the gym three times a week” when at present you don’t go at all. A more realistic goal — a “small action” that is much more doable — is “I’ll increase my walking steps by 1/3” or “I’ll add 10 minutes a day to my usual walk with the dog.” We tend to be more successful at modifying existing behaviors than we do in creating entirely new habits. Indeed, research shows that only 10% of “large action” resolutions ever successfully become habit.
While this article doesn’t say so, I also surmise that resolutions tend to fail because they are based on negative feelings and deprivation. Issues with body image, strict dieting that denies you food you enjoy, and a loathing of going to the gym (that’s me!) all contribute to resolution failure. If you crave foods you can’t have, have to give up valuable time from other activities to work out at the gym which you don’t enjoy, or don’t see immediate results from your efforts, you’ll become resentful and discouraged and ultimately quit (certainly true for me).
In mulling this over, it seems that working toward small actions and building on current habits can be helpful to us professionally. Here are some suggestions that have worked for me:
- Bring new life to therapy. The more you enjoy the interaction, the better the students will respond, so think about therapy activities that you enjoy and do more of them. Pull some therapy materials off the shelf that you haven’t looked at in a while to get some new ideas. Visit the Materials Exchange of Speaking of Speech.com for some freebies you haven’t already downloaded. Get fired up about games, activities, and therapy techniques you’ve read about on this or other blogs or found on Pinterest or TeachersPayTeachers. Share materials and ideas with colleagues.
- Improve your caseload management. Hopefully, you already have organizational systems in place for all you need to accomplish daily, but if you find yourself stressed, worried that things are falling through the cracks, or realizing that you are always frantically pushing up against deadlines, you may need to tweak your caseload management strategies so that you are more productive and less stressed. SLP blogs are full of ideas related to color-coding, stickie notes, bins, and binders, so check them out, but remember: organizational strategies, to my mind, are very personal. We all have our own styles and ways of thinking, so look for ideas that feel doable to YOU! Don’t get hung up on creating time-intensive, designer-like materials, unless that appeals to you. Instead, I prefer to focus on function: what can I do to simplify my workload, handle my “to do” list, and keep my workspace organized and efficient? Little actions can make a big difference!
- Limit time vampires. If you fall into a rabbit hole whenever you look at TPT or Pinterest, set a timer and stick to it. If you have colleagues who love to gab about everything under the sun every morning before school, extract yourself politely but firmly so you can get organized for the day. A “do not disturb” sign on the door may be needed, but will be worth the extra time you’ll find each day for doing what needs to be done without unnecessary stress.
- Schedule “clean up” time. Maybe it’s just me, but I really need to start and end the day with a sense of tidiness. I don’t want to wake up to a sink full of dirty dishes and I don’t want to come home from school to an unmade bed and other signs of disarray, so I give myself 5 minutes each morning and each evening to do a quick straightening up. Likewise, I don’t want to walk into my speech room to find a mess I’d left behind the night before. I find that spending 5-10 minutes at the end of each workday clearing off my desk, straightening piles of work to be done, and putting away therapy materials makes coming in each morning much more pleasant and helps me end the day with a sense of completion.
Well, that’s what works for me, so my resolution this year is to stick to it. What works for you?? What little actions can you take to make your professional life run more smoothly?