One of those days or weeks or months when there is too much 'stuff' thrown at you all at once? Teachers especially experience this as it comes to the end of the school year. And if you are a teacher and a mother of several children, it's hopeless.
Maybe in the UK you still have a few weeks to go before it hits you, if your school year only finishes three weeks into July? And if you are reading this in America, I know that some schools have already broken up for the summer (but they go back at the beginning of August). In Israel school finishes on June 20th (high schools) and June 30th (primary schools).
This is what the end of the year involves here: writing reports for each student, end of year tests to be given and graded, end of year parties for every class in every course, attending end of year parties for every activity each of your children attends, the start of swimming lessons, the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) which includes assemblies and ceremonies at each of your children's schools, unbearably hot weather, and battling a general feeling of, "we're done," from students
I have some of the above but not all. I have only one child whereas some of my colleagues have 4+ children. On the other hand, as a single parent, all the end of year activities for DD are down to me. As a subject teacher rather than a class teacher, I have many more than the standard 30 pupils to write reports for. On the other hand, I only have to write about one subject (English) and not a whole load of subjects and behaviour comments. On the other hand I have to write my reports in Hebrew which is hard for me. I can compose what I want to say without problem and even write it down but typing it onto the computer is so frustrating when you don't know how to spell and you don't know where all the letters are. And I teach summer courses which have to be prepared. Long story short, it's swings and roundabouts and I'm drowning.
On top of all the end of year obligations, you have to keep up with the housework and household responsibilities. I would like to just forget about it all until July 1st but I can't. Firstly, we live in the desert and if you don't dust and mop the floors the desert starts to encroach on your living room. Secondly, if you don't keep paying those bills, answering those emails, filing your papers, and generally tidying up, things start to get lost. Important things like medical prescriptions, professional references that you need when applying for extra teaching hours for next year, bills that go unpaid until you start getting threatening letters and have to pay interest, those end of year tests that you are supposed to grade and return to the students, etc...
So, as you can't stop the world and retreat under the duvet, you need a way to get things done rather than just pushing everything aside. And you need a definite system because wading through, picking up bits and pieces of tasks as you fall over them, or as they become critically urgent, is the least efficient way to go about it and a sure way to lose your sanity. We're aiming to cross things off the To Do list, not chip away at 100 things at once and never finish any of it. No siree.
This is the art of dedicating chunks of time to a specific task whilst forgetting all about any other tasks. You need a calendar with the hours marked in. Then you just block off a specific amount of time for the job that is most urgent. But if you also need to do other urgent tasks (or urgent to you because e.g. you simply cannot live with that pile of junk on the dining-room table one more day as it's making you depressed) then give each of those a half hour or an hour. I'm telling you it works. The only rule is that you must absolutely not break into your blocked time to do another unscheduled job. Turn off your phone if you have to, whatever it takes. Here are two scenarios to illustrate the point:
1. No Blocking Time.
It's 4.30 pm and you are faced with an overwhelming amount of things that need seeing to. You decide to start with grading but get distracted by emails asking you to return you report card comments by yesterday. Meanwhile your child is whining that she's hungry and supper needs cooking (because you are no longer buying processed food and because of this you've already ordered pizza twice this week). So you stop to cook supper and you first have to wash up a saucepan to cook it in. Then you have to clear the table a bit or she's got nowhere to eat. And as you're piling up the papers on the table because there's no time to deal with them or file them properly, you notice a utility bill that needs paying by NOW or you will get cut off. You also find some supermarket coupons that you meant to use and the final date on them is today. So you abandon supper and run out to the supermarket. By the time you get back you're too tired to do any more grading, or report card writing, or tidying the dining-room table. So you order burgers, for a change, waste a couple of hours on facebook and twitter, and get into your unmade bed after setting the alarm for 5 am with the promise of an early start tomorrow. Tomorrow does starts early but the first two hours of it consists of hitting the snooze button 12 times.
2. Blocking Time.
It's 4.30 pm and you are faced with a productive, well planned evening. First you have 4.30 - 5.30 blocked off for clearing the kitchen, cooking supper, clearing the clutter in the living-room (it's ok to plan just to make relevant piles for filing later in order to uncover urgent papers), paying any outstanding bills by phone, and making a pile of papers that you will need over the next few days. There are philosophies that say you should only handle each piece of paper once but we're way beyond that - this is crisis control not Super Woman.
5.30 - 6.30 pm Feed your children, deal with anything they need you for and if they are old enough (we managed this at age five) tell them that you are busy for the rest of the evening and that they should clean their teeth, amuse themselves for a while and then put themselves to bed. Sorry, no story tonight. You clean up the kitchen.
6.30 - 8 pm. Do that grading (or any prep for your own particular job). Do not look at emails. Do not attend to children (there are apples in the fridge if you're hungry, yes you can go on the computer, whatever you want, just get on with it yourself).
8 - 8.30 pm. Make the children go to bed by shutting down all tech devices. Clean the bathroom and put on a load of laundry. Make yourself a cup of coffee or any beverage of your choice.
8.30 - 9 pm. Deal with emails and whatsapp whilst drinking your coffee. Do not be tempted to go into social media.
9 - 10.30 pm. Write reports (or a blog post, or do your household accounts - you choose). Do not be tempted to go back and do more grading. This is Report Card Time. Just do it.
10.30 pm. Hang out the laundry and go to bed - you may read in bed till 11 pm.
You have a clean kitchen and bathroom, you have done 1 1/2 hours of grading and 1 1/2 hours of reports (or blogging or whatever), you have paid outstanding bills and put aside important papers that were previously lost, the table is organised if not exactly cleared, and you have done a load of laundry. And you are asleep with a clear conscience before midnight. That is freaking amazing!