The Unconventional Form of Self-Care For Teachers That Actually Makes You Better

Mar 13, 2022

If you’re anything like me, when you hear the words “self-care” as a teacher, you probably roll your eyes. 

This message that we need to be taking care of ourselves to avoid burnout, blasting at us from all directions, is only a half-truth. 

Try googling “self-care for teachers” and the top results all circle back to teacher burnout.

You’ll see suggestions like “treat yourself” and “go for a walk outside”; “make a playlist of happy songs” and “binge watch a series”. 

If the goal is to avoid teacher burnout, then most of these suggestions are band-aid fixes. They might give you a serotonin boost in the moment, or temporary amnesia from the stresses you face at school, but they DO NOT by any means solve the true issues at heart.

I like to think of teacher burnout as this feeling of “stuckness”. I dive into this idea more in another blog post [3 Strategies to Avoid Teacher Burnout Right From the Start], but basically it’s this idea that burnout is really us feeling “stuck” by challenges we face that often seem outside of our control.

According to the research, some of the main indicators that lead to “teacher burnout” include stress from the environment we are teaching in, issues with students/parents/administration, intense workloads, and a lack of resources [among other things]. 

So like I said, these are things that we have limited control over. So that means what we really should be doing, if we want to get “unstuck”, is focusing on the things we actually CAN control. 

We can’t necessarily change the system or our circumstances 100% of the time; however, we CAN learn to flex the autonomy we have and that brings about a sense of power in our work. 

How Your Productivity is Contributing [or not] to Your Burnout

I like to take this idea of “stuckness” one step further by making a connection. I would argue that there’s a connection between your productivity and the degree of “stuckness” that you feel (i.e. burnout).

I believe that one of the reasons we start to feel “stuck” is because we aren’t growing.

So that would mean, in order to get “unstuck” (i.e. overcome any degree of burnout that might be creeping upon - or enveloping - you), you’ve got to start growing again in ways that are meaningful to you.

This idea of growth and productivity came together in the goal-setting process I designed [not gonna lie… selfishly, I created it for me, myself, and I].

Not all that long ago, I felt those familiar feelings of “stuckness” start creeping their way back into my psyche.

It had been nearly three years since I had last felt that way and as soon as I realized what was beginning to happen, I knew I needed to steer the hot mess express I was riding onto a different track. 

So I began researching, experimenting, and I ultimately ended up creating my own kind of a system that eventually turned into the productivity system at the foundation of the Teachure Planner.

This was a system of goal-setting.

Let me ask you, is goal-setting something that you practice? On a consistent basis?

I don’t know about you, but when I look at people around me, just in general, I see one of two things. 

A.) I see people who set goals in January because it’s a “new year” (and we won’t talk about how long it takes for those “hype” goals to fizzle out). 

B.) I see people who roll their eyes at the mention of “goal-setting” and prefer to just wing it.

Of course, I know there are outliers who do practice their own form of setting goals for themselves, I’m not discounting those people. I’m just speaking to what I’ve come to notice in general.

Do you fall into either of these categories? 

Or, even if you do practice some form of goal-setting, how intentional are you about the process?

The thing I’ve come to notice about the people who fall into categories A + B above (and by the way, that was me 🙋🏼‍♀️, hype-goal girl all the way), is that they are still feeling “stuck” to some degree. One or more aspects of life feels lacking and it becomes this constant hamster wheel of wanting things to change, but not really knowing how to get that darn needle to move in the direction you want it to.

Well, that’s where getting intentional about your productivity comes in. 

If you were in category B above and the mention of goal-setting makes you want to roll your eyes, I’ll just ask you if satisfied and fulfilled are words you can confidently use to describe your current state? If you can’t say yes to that question, then maybe it’s time to try something new [read on for that something new 👉].

Oh, and if you were in category A, as was I [hype-goal girl, remember] then what I’m about to share will make your hype-goal-heart super happy because I’m talking about hype that happens 4x/year, not just in January.

A New Perspective on Self-Care

Self-care is really about grounding yourself to what’s most meaningful to you. 

One of the ways you can do this, as I talk about in this blog post, is by prioritizing your growth.

Because remember… the reason you might be feeling “stuck” is because you aren’t growing.

And we have to look at growth on both a personal and professional level.

Setting intentional goals, with an intentional plan laid out for making those goals a reality, is your surefire way to keep growing.

My approach to goal-setting is one that feels a lot like a funnel, where each level of the funnel filters your goals until they are as specific and targeted as possible. You start with a dream-worthy vision and narrow things down until you arrive at targeted, actionable tasks. Let’s take a spin through this goal-setting funnel.

Ideally, you start off with a vision. So I ask myself, what do I want the next 12 months of my life to look like?

Then I like to look at my goals through a 12-13 week lens, or in other words, from a quarterly perspective. This is what I like to call Quarter Design. 

When I said this would make your hype-goal-heart happy, this is what I’m talking about. So long are the days where we set goals for the entire year. For most of us and in most cases, that time frame is unrealistic and we usually fall off the wagon, so to speak, within a few months from starting. No, from now on, we take it a quarter at a time. 

[There’s a great book called the 12 Week Year that teaches why this condensed approach is better - definitely worth a read!]

So each quarter, I sit down and come up with focus goals that I want to accomplish, or at least make progress on, during that quarter. I reference my 12-month vision for inspiration here.

I then fragment, or break down those focus goals, into action steps. So I ask myself, what’s it going to take to achieve each goal. I list out all of the tasks necessary for achieving the goal and then I organize those tasks into action steps. This, ultimately, helps me to formulate an action plan that I can reference each month.

Then, with the action plan as a guide, I establish targets, which are pretty much objectives, during each week throughout the quarter.

So this looks like, for each month, me revisiting my Goal Plans and selecting action steps I plan to target for the month. I’ve already listed out the tasks that make up each action step, so I just divvy these tasks out for each week of the month. These are my targets and they become the daily tasks I end up focusing on.

So like I said, I call this a fragmented approach because there’s a lot of “breaking down” that happens. But I believe that’s really necessary in order to be as intentional as possible with the goal-setting process. 

We all know how easy it is to set goals for ourselves; the hard part is actually achieving the goals we have set. I think one of the biggest reasons we don’t achieve some of the goals we set for ourselves is because we don’t have a clear path that leads us there. We just kind of get hung up or lost on the path along the way. That’s what this system is all about. Setting not just a clear path, but an intentional path, to your goals.

How Identity-Based Goal-Setting Can Change the Teaching Game For You

Identity-based goal-setting is about carrying out the goal-setting process using who you are, or who you would like to be, as a sort of driver.

What type of person do you want to be? What type of person do you need to be in order to realize the goals you have for yourself?

You see, it’s not enough to just set goals based on what we want in the end. Losing 20 pounds. Getting a new teaching job, or a promotion maybe outside of the classroom. Paying off debt. These are outcomes. 

What we really need to do is shift from outcome-driven goal-setting to identity-based goal-setting. This is an approach where you identify what I like to call your “push/pull factors”, and then you identify the type of person you need to be in order to make your goals a reality. 

Typically, the goals we set for ourselves are what I like to call our “pull factors”. These are the outcomes that pull our attention and our excitement.

But identifying pull factors just isn’t enough. They might excite you in the beginning, but they won’t sustain you when things get bumpy. And things always get bumpy on the road to your dreams. 

So that’s where your “push factors” come in. This is where you reflect on what’s really pushing you in the direction towards your goals.

In order to get my point across, I’ll share the same example with you now that I share in the Teachure School.

At the start of the current Quarter I’m in right now, I decided I wanted to lose some weight. Losing weight is the outcome and it’s the goal that’s pulling me towards the direction of a fitter, potentially healthier version of myself. 

But what’s pushing me is the fact that I’m tired of feeling tired. I want to have more energy. Recently I tried on wedding dresses because my Brazilian beach wedding is coming up in about 6 months. During this experience, although I found a dress I fell in love with, I didn’t feel as confident in it as I want to for my wedding day. So this desire to feel more confident in my own skin is another push factor. 

So in this example, losing weight is an outcome. But by identifying my push factors, I’ve identified the things I’m really yearning for. Which is more energy and confidence in my own skin. 

Following this process of identity-based goal-setting, as well as identifying my push/pull factors, I ended up coming up with an action plan for this quarter that ultimately led me to joining a yoga studio, finding [and loving] a new MMA workout routine, and trying out a rowing class [something I’ve literally never even considered]. Moving my body every single day [in a way that I actually find enjoyable] has become a new non-negotiable for me. 

If I hadn’t worked my way through this process using the goal-setting system I described before, I can confidently say that my goal to “lose a little weight” would’ve derailed way back in January not long after I wrote it down in my planner. 

Instead though, my plan was intentional and rooted in what was actually meaningful to me. So it’s almost mid-March… the weight is down, the energy is up, and more importantly, I’ve started new habits over the course of the past 2 and a half months that make me better in more ways than one.

This is just ONE example of ONE focus goal. I created five focus goals for myself during this quarter and guess what… I’ve made more progress towards the things that are most meaningful to me during this one quarter than I did pretty much all of last year. No lie.

And, on another level, do you know what that’s done for my mindset? It’s inspired me to think bigger. Not to mention, it’s motivated me more than ever to keep moving forward and aiming higher on a consistent daily basis.

All of that to say, it’s given me a sense of control over my life and a feeling of hope. 

If you’ve ever found yourself on the wrong side of teacher burnout, then you already know, hope is the antidote. 

My favorite way to follow this goal-setting process I’ve outlined for you is via the Teachure Planner.

All of the templates to help you fragment your goals from the quarterly level down to your daily tasks are mapped out for you in the planner, for every single quarter, month, week, and even day of the year.

Since I’m a big fan of trying things out to see how they fit in with life, I created a free mini-Teachure Planner to give you the chance to experiment. And in the mini-Teachure Planner I’ve included the Goal Plan template, which you can use to map out an action plan for a goal you’d like to focus on.

At the time I’m writing this, we are heading into a new quarter in just a few short weeks. 

My “hype-goal girl” tendencies are clearly on display because I cannot deny, I LOVE the feeling of a fresh start. And that’s why I love the idea of Quarter Design using the Teachure Planner.

But the reality is, no matter when you’re reading this, you’re never more than three months away from your next fresh start. Because we’re operating on a quarterly schedule around here… not a yearly one. 

So start where you are, work with what you have, and see what progress you can make between now and that next fresh start.

If you like what you see in the mini-Teachure Planner, the complete Teachure Planner is light-years better.

Now, in case you couldn’t tell already, I am super obsessed with my Teachure Planner. I mean, when something radically changes the game for you, don’t you want to shout it from the mountaintops too?!

Well, I want to make sure YOU get obsessed about it too and the way for that to happen is for you to truly understand the ins and outs of the systems the planner is rooted in.

And let me just say, those systems go beyond productivity. We’re talking systems for organization, teacher-specific growth in the classroom, and impact, as well.

In the Teachure School, I take you on a deep dive, complete with coaching and resources to help you integrate these systems easily into your own life.

Starting with Teachure 101 | Productivity.

I want to make sure you are set up for success, which is why when you purchase the Teachure Planner and make the commitment to radically change the game for yourself as well, you automatically get 30 days free access to the Teachure School.

That’s going to give you the time you need to dive in to Teachure 101 | Productivity and get the ball rolling with making the absolute most of your Teachure Planner.

If you’re ready to take the next steps, the links below will get you on your way:

👉 Check out the free mini-Teachure Planner download [follow the link and look for the download button]. You can use the mini-Teachure Planner with any digital notetaking app [more info in the How-to Library].

👉 If you want to take a look inside the complete Teachure Planner, and even check out some videos where I walk you through systems + routines of the planner, check out the videos in the How-to Library

👉 Choose your favorite Teachure Planner style + format here!



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