I’ve seen tweets, a couple quite scathing, about those who use apps to record the number of books they read. I’m one of those people who did. I didn’t make a big deal out of it, or push it daily on the world, I just did it because I wanted to make sure that I was giving myself a little push to do something that wasn’t work based. It worked this year, I read more than I have had for a long time, in fact I beat the challenge I had set myself by double. I spent a longer amount of time somewhere else in my head, sitting on my balcony in the sun with a book, and was it nice to see that shift in well-being in numbers at the end of the year? Yes it was.
If I hadn’t met the little target I set myself then I would have questioned it for myself, not for anyone else. I would have questioned what else I had been doing with my time, and as many years before I know what the answer would have been – working. I do work hard, I work very hard and there are times when I spend much longer than is acceptable working because I need to get things done. In the half term up to Christmas I was working 7 days a week. That isn’t good, I’m not proud of it. In my opinion we should all have at least a day a week not thinking about work at all.
I find it interesting but also quite sad that we laud people who blog or post resources every day, never questioning their well-being or the effect on the people they work with. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who have it absolutely right and seem to be machines at making amazing resources whilst also reading books, visiting brilliant places and just generally enjoying life. I am in awe of those people.
But I get a lot of DMs from people through Team English and over the last year or so there has been a significant shift in people feeling completely burned out, or feeling inadequate for wanting to prioritise family or well-being over work. They DM because they feel it is a shameful secret, that they can’t admit that they feel this way on a Twitter where ambition is rife.
As a woman of a certain age with grown-up children I have had time to reflect. Do I sometimes think that I prioritised work that I didn’t have to do over spending time with my children? Yes, I do. Do I think sometimes I prioritised work over my own well-being so much that it affected my children? Yes, I do. My daughter and I have had conversations and will continue to do so about that very thing. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it also means that it is time that is gone and I can’t change it. I wish I had been better at balancing life and work. I wish that sometimes I had been emotionally mature enough to say sometimes that it was just a job and that in life there are things that are far more important…and that actually most of the time those things were people.
Not that I am saying that there is anything wrong with blogging. I blog, I have spoken at many conferences and events, but I tend to blog sporadically when I feel like I have done something enough and have the experience and knowledge to know that it works. I love reading other people’s blogs, but the best blogs for me are always those that are methodical, have trialled things over an amount of time in the classroom, have thought about the impact and are not afraid of saying what hasn’t worked. There are some fantastic reflective practitioners out there who I respect enormously. Blogging can be a great way to cathartically assess your practice and share with others what you have found. The trick is to never think that you have all the answers, or that one way is the right way.
But back to the start of this blog. I’d like to think that we can be less critical of people for choosing to set targets when it comes to books, because we have made massive assumptions about why people do. If you are sniping more at those who set themselves a target of books to read in a year, but are happy to laud those who are advocating nothing but thinking about work all day every day then there is something a bit askew.
I am lucky to work for leaders who consistently model a work-life balance. I am more likely to see their days out with family and friends, or the books that they have read on social media than anything to do with work. As I’ve matured I’ve realised how important that is as a push for me to manage my own work-life balance.
So I’ve set my target of books to read this year. Will I be annoyed if I don’t reach it? No, not really, unless it is an indication that I have prioritised work consistently across a period of 12 months. I actually think I am a better teacher and person to all those around me when I get that balance right. It doesn’t happen as much as it should. I will consistently be in awe of those that get it right. They are my heroes. So go ahead and set targets, record your reading, or don’t. Do whatever the hell you want to do that makes your life a better one.