Unplug to Recharge

A Macintosh Classic in the background with a powercord wrapped up in the foreground.

This article first appeared on unboxingeducation.blogspot.com

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of any work-from-home job is how to not be working. It becomes too easy to have one foot in the office at all times. I learned the lesson of unplugging in the most unlikely of circumstances: teaching online during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the fall of 2020, I saw my virtual student enrollment soar from a pre-pandemic level of 90 students to 300+ enrollments. I was also trying to support my coworkers and just generally navigate living, and parenting, during unprecedented times. 

Prior to the pandemic, I prided myself on my quick response times and my inbox-zero mentality. I worked on and off most of the day and usually late into the night. While busy seasons sometimes got my schedule off kilter, the catch as catch can method worked most of the time. 

However, by the end of September 2020, it became clear that inbox zero would be a distant memory. I also rarely got all submitted assignments graded. I remember days when I would see 3-4 assignments turned in in the time that it took me to grade one. This rocked my online world for a few weeks. 

However, I noticed a few phenomena. First, nothing crashed if I logged out and went home at 5pm, leaving some assignments for the morning. Second, when I did not respond to an email in five minutes or less, students, and parents, often did their own troubleshooting and figured out the issue without my help. Both were such obvious epiphanies. 

Learn from my experience; don’t wait for a world-altering event to force focus. I have maintained my more relaxed mentality even as life has hit a new normal. While I keep my email at hand during my office hours and strive to reply in under five minutes, I mute work emails during off times. My geography helps me to take this to an even deeper level when my family takes off on a hike beyond the reach of cell phone service. There is something rejuvenating about spending time near trees, water, and beyond the reach of technology.

My time in the office, I would dare say, is more productive and passionate because of the time I spend away. My mind is clearer and my work is more focused because my time has a focus.

Editor’s Note: If you have other ideas on how to separate work from certain days or times in your life, reach out to Betsy and others on K12Leaders. Self-Care is not just a buzzword. It is necessary for us to bring our best selves to the job at hand. Between all of us, we can share doable suggestions!


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