First, we are wise to accept that we are very unlikely to achieve balance as a condition—that auto-pilot state in which we’ve finally calculated the magical fixed quantities oftime and energy to dedicate to either our personal or professional lives. Since we live in a world of perpetual change—both professionally and personally—trying to lock in on a set amount of time and energy to devote to any given task (either at home or at school) will leave us feeling even more stressed when inevitable change causes the set amounts to no longer work (a new role at work, a new child at home, etc.).
Instead, we are better served to understand balance as an ongoing process ofinvestingthe finite resources of our time and energy according to a task’s potential long-term benefit.I call it the time test: tomorrow, how much will it matter that I devoted X amount of time and energy to task A, B, or C at home and/or at work? How much will it matter next week? Next six-weeks? Next semester? Next year? My time test is an implementation of Dwight Eisenhower’s point that central to the process of maintaining balance is the skill of distinguishing the urgent from the important (a concept later expanded by Steven Covey).
Not every squeaky wheel that seems to demand the immediate oil of our resources—the urgent—necessarily contributes to our long-term mission and values—the important.The million-dollar task for the classroom teacher, then, is to be a disciplined student of his or her professional and personal lives. The goal is to develop a second-nature ability to accurately interpret the squeaks of our physical, emotional, occupational, financial, and occupational well-beingso we can devote resources wisely and avoid imbalance and eventual burnout.