Hey School Psych friends! It’s Winter Break time, people! Time to binge sleep, watch every episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and catch up on family and friend time! I can have a dance party with my kiddies in my jammies! Maybe in the meadow I could build a snowman! Visions of Sugarplums, here I come! And all that holiday stuff, right?
Or maaaaaaybe you should chip away at writing some reports.
NOOOOO…where did that tiny voice come from? Why are my visions of sugarplums morphing into visions of me working over break so I’m not under a pile of reports in January??? Shhhh. Focus on conspiring and dreaming by the fire and such. FOCUS.
Seriously, just write a few reports to get ahead.
GAH. There it is again. The little nagging voice that wants me to work over break so I’m not punched in the face with reports when I get back from break. Anyone else have a Me vs. Me situation about working over the holiday break too?
In years past, I have used breaks as a way to half rest, half catch up with reports. Then I feel half bad for not resting fully and half bad for not working more.
I remember back when I was young and fun, living in San Francisco, as a brand-new school psych. I also remember ruining all my breaks with report writing to catch up.
I remember when I was a new mom, with my tiny baby girl. I also remember ruining all my valuable nap time, writing reports while she napped instead of co-snuggling.
True, in those moments, I probably felt accomplished and a little ahead of the game in the New Year, but now, looking back, what I wouldn’t give to have that time now to have KID FREE FUN in San Francisco (hey, maybe a brunch where I didn’t have to pull out a circus of fun from my mom purse when my kids are hungry and restless?). What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and have cuddle-naps with my baby.
It’s so not worth it.
So I’m done working over my breaks, y’all. If you’re already there, hats off to you—feel free to post your pro tips on how you made it happen. For the rest of us, here’s a few strategies I’ve found to work to learn how to use breaks for their intended purpose:
1) Just don’t. Put the work bag away. Decide that it will stay away. Hide it from yourself in a closet you don’t use. Then don’t look back and don’t regret. If you feel compelled to swap out something fun or restful for work, tell yourself: “I’ll never be in my rocking chair in my retirement wishing I’d written more reports.” And then just don’t.
2) Remember the research on the benefits of rest: increased wellbeing, enhanced creativity, and improved productivity.
3) Do not check your work email! Shut it down. Turn off alerts. Put an out-of-office automatic email reply on. Take it OFF your phone so you don’t see it all the time. It will be there when you get back, I promise.
4) Schedule the fun. Schedule wellness activities (hint: starts with “M” and ends with “-assage”). Or, schedule nothing and bask in not having a to-do list. Just do what you need to do to recharge—connect with others, revisit activities that you love, binge sleep, or be a lazy sloth and sit around—these are all good ways to spend a break.
5) If you MUST write reports, do it mindfully as a decision. Don’t mindlessly churn out reports just because you have time to do it. Put parameters around it. Schedule time to do it and then stop when that time is up. Making a conscious choice to work is not “bad,” so long as it’s a thoughtful choice that you are making because you’ve evaluated the pros and cons and decided a little work would relieve stress later on. Then, you won’t feel resentful that you worked, because you owned the decision.
And now, I’m off to hide my files in the closet, dance to “Party in the USA” (a classic!) with my small daughters, and then make my husband watch a highly intellectual episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend with me…
Rebecca Branstetter is a school psychologist and the creator of the Thriving School Psychologist Collective™, a professional development learning community for school psychologists. To learn how to spend more time with actual students rather than spending time with students’ paperwork (and earn NASP-approved CEUs doing it!) visit www.thrivingschoolpsych.com/mentor.