This post is part 2 of a mini-series called So Tired You Could Cry.
The 1st part can be found here.
You know when your phone warns you about the battery being low, it also asks if you want to enable Low Power Mode? You need to figure out what that looks like for you. What are your signs of low energy and what can you do to help?
I’ve compiled a few ideas, but I would also recommend looking into other aspects of your work and habits…
Video isn’t everything
If you are not using “hide self view” in whatever video communication platforms you use, do that now. It honestly helps. Especially if you think you don’t look at the picture of yourself. That’s background power you can easily stop draining.
On that subject, a friend’s post over on Facebook gave me another idea:
Some of your students are not using the video. Why are you?
Take this question seriously. Looking professional takes a lot of energy. If you are now in low power mode, can you drop “looking professional” at least some of the time? Think about what is essential. Listening attentively. Engaging usefully. You can do all that from bed, propped up on pillows, with an eye mask on to reduce visual stimulation, if you keep your camera off. In fact, you could suggest this for some of your meetings (e.g. with students, or with close colleagues). Acknowledge that we’re all tired and we can do this more effectively in low power mode.
Let go of what isn’t needed
In Office Hours (a feature of the Academic Writing Studio) a few weeks ago we came up with this list of stuff you could let go of:
- being more compassionate (you are already a compassionate and responsive teacher)
- being highly prepared for class (you have experience; you could wing it more)
- making it look like things are not difficult right now (you’re not superhuman and that’s ok)
- cleaning your house (no one is coming over; keep the kitchen and bathroom the right side of hygienic; tidy the space people can see on video calls or use virtual backgrounds)
Not all meetings are necessary
I’m going to add not going to meetings to that list. Seriously. Be more picky about which meetings you go to. Send apologies (they might be called “regrets” where you live). They might sound something like: “I will not be able to attend this meeting, please record my apologies in the minutes”. Feel free to do this for any event that gives you a feeling of dread as soon as you see it in your calendar. Dread drains energy.
Notice what drains you. Delete the item from your calendar once you’ve said no so you don’t get unnecessary dread or guilt when you open your calendar. Also, don’t go to anything in which you think you’ll have no useful contribution to make or anything to learn. When someone suggests a meeting, ask “Do we really need to deal with this before Christmas?” If it’s not genuinely urgent, just say no. I’m not saying that the meetings you say yes to will necessarily be enjoyable. They will simply be important and in line with your values. It is definitely urgent to do what needs to be done so students can progress or graduate.
Feedback can be done differently, or not at all
Give less feedback on final assessments. Can you get away with just submitting a grade and maybe making 2 lines of notes for yourself in case it is challenged to remind yourself why that grade? I know giving constructive feedback is part of what it means to you to be a good teacher, even if your students don’t read it. What if low power mode means not doing that? What if the few students who would really value feedback came to you in January when you have a bit more capacity and you gave them verbal feedback in office hours? The most useful feedback I ever had as an undergraduate was an English professor who gave me a C and wrote “You are capable of better. Come see me in office hours.” I did go see him. He was encouraging and recommended books about writing that would help me correct the problems. I wrote essays for everyone with those books beside me for years. If just submitting a grade feels like too far, what is the minimum amount of feedback you could give (keeping in mind that less is often more effective for them anyway)?
What else can you not do?
What is draining energy in the background unnecessarily? How can you turn it off?
Write a list. Make a plan. Develop your own Low Power Mode. You can do this!
It won’t be easy
I know this is difficult to do in practice. You can do it badly. Trying counts (whatever Yoda says).
This is why I offer group coaching in the Academic Writing Studio. On Friday 4 December there will be a group coaching session focused on getting through the period until Semester 2 starts. I’ll help you clarify what your must-do tasks are for this period (e.g. grading semester 1 work, preparing for at least the first week or 2 of semester 2) and what you’d like to do over this period (e.g. celebrate Christmas with your family even if that looks different this year). Then I’ll help you figure out a strategy that prioritises recharging, even if you aren’t going to be able to get back up to 100%.
Join the Studio to attend this session. There will be another session on 8 January to do something similar for Semester 2, taking into account that you are starting on less than full power and need to make it to the end of semester without burning out. There will be group coaching throughout the semester to keep you on track.