Look, I get it: you’re busy. We all get busy, all the time, and sometimes time feels as if it’s out of our hands. There are just things that you need to get done, and often other activities fall by the wayside. It’s only natural to prioritise one thing over another.
However, if you keep that up, you will burn out. There was a period, last year, where I sacrificed being Josh and turned solely into Mr. Hamilton, since we had so, so much marking to get done – for mock papers and Key Stage Three end-of-cycle assessments. Getting through it all was such a relief, and I was finally able to indulge in non-work related activities. Don’t get me wrong – I love teaching – but I also enjoy blogging, writing, staying in shape, and so much more.
There is a not a doubt in my mind that, if I had made that temporary increase in workload permanent, and had done nothing but work all winter, I’d have started to resent my job. We are so much more than just the thing we do for a living. It’s important that you never lose sight of that.
Here’s why you need to never say no to non-negotiables.
What is a non-negotiable?
A non-negotiable isn’t somebody’s way of controlling what you do each and every day. If that’s happening, you need to call it out; your life isn’t someone else’s to decide on.
No: simply put, a non-negotiable is anything that you want to do, and will do, no matter what. I don’t care how busy you are, or how much work you have on, or how tired you are; these are things that you need to do for the sake of your sanity.
This might be a trip to the gym, or a call to your partner, or a pub trip with your friends. It might even be half an hour, every single night, dedicated to playing video games. Maybe it’s a daily walk or a round of press-ups every morning. There’s so much flexibility with what counts as a non-negotiable, but the important thing is that it has to be something that you want to do, whether it involves someone else or not.
Why make a non-negotiable?
There are so many reasons why non-negotiables are so, so important. Firstly, because it’s so easy to get caught up in our work, non-negotiables remind us to focus on everything else that makes us who we are. If you just focus on the work grind, sooner or later you’ll have woken in 40 years to find that you’ve done little else than working 9-5.
Now, it’s easy to say that you’ll do something. We all say that we’ll go to the gym five times a week, read every day and learn a language before going on holiday in the summer, but how often does that actually happen? Make something a non-negotiable, meaning that it has to happen, regardless of whether you’ve got lots on.
Obviously I’m not advocating for burning yourself out by doing what you love through never resting – or skipping activities with others with others because you just have to get in another workout (that would be silly). What I am advocating for is not just sitting down to watch Netflix every night because it’s easy (unless that is your non-negotiable), but instead forcing yourself to do the things that you want to do!
I find it really useful to schedule time into my Google Calendar so that I get reminders whenever it’s time to do what I love, as an extra prompt.
Can non-negotiables boost productivity?
Why yes, it can boost your productivity!
Or at least, that’s what I find. If I’m working flat-out to get books marked or lessons planned without a break, I start to flag after so many hours of work. Usually I’ll have set myself a deadline – say, get this done within the next two hours – but then my work expands to fill the allotted time. As a result, I’ll get less done than I mean to and end up working for longer. This is a known phenomenon called Parkinson’s Law, and it’s plagued people for years.
However, if I’ve set myself a firm cut-off point for working hours because I have to go and do my hobby, I’ll end up getting things finished with plenty of time to spare – either because I have to, or because I become less of a perfectionist. As a result, my productivity goes up.
Sticking to non-negotiables will also give your mind a break so, instead of burning out, you might feel more fired-up for the next time you come back to your day job. Carving out a part of your day to do what you love is also going to help to maintain your mental health, which will all work together to make a happier, healthier you.
Putting my money where my mouth is
So, what are my non-negotiable?
- Going to the gym, or completing a work out, at least 3 times a week. Anything more is a bonus.
- Writing once a week.
- Spending time with the people I care about every day.
I’d love to add the likes of learning my language and practicing the ukulele, but it’s equally important to not over-commit yourself – or else you’ll end up doing none of it at all!
What are your non-negotiables?
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