A little more than two years ago, I talked about burnout, particularly the path towards it that I and probably you were on. My ELT:Other ratio stared glaringly in my face, mocking my attempts at having a life outside of language teaching. It’s then that I realised I was definitely on the road to burnout. Now with Shelly Sanchez Terrell’s cycle 4 of the 30 Goals for Educators, and an upcoming Google Hangout I’ll be doing with her about them, it seems like an opportune time to revisit my path and see if things have changed.
The gist of the ELT:Other ratio is looking at how you spend your time in language teaching areas vs all of your other interests. It’s a 3-step process:
1) Divvy up all of your weekly time spent on ELT-related (e.g. class time, prep, blogging, PD, etc.);
2) Compare ELT-related time spent vs everything else you do in your free time (e.g. socialising, fitness, TV, etc.);
3) Compare time spent on all ELT-relate time spent vs all your other interests in a month (e.g. reading fiction, skiing, etc.).
If your #2 & #3 shows over 50% of your time on ELT, you might be heading down that fiery path. These ratios can help you notice in black & white how much time you actually spend in comparison to other endeavours. Startling really. It can also help you recognise which areas of ELT (#1) you may be devoting an inhumane amount of time to. I was on the path to burnout and noticing it, as it seems Vicky Loras, Shelly Sanchez Terrell and Cecilia Lemos understood. Thankfully so far, I have avoided the desolate pit of burnout, but by how far? Am I still on that path? Are you?
One caveat that came out in discussion, however, was the blurry grey (or in this case red) overlap between social media and ELT. They are often not mutually exclusive. My PLN are my friends too. I socialise with them online like I do my friends offline at a pub and in the office (note I said pub first…). I joke around on Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Google+ with them, sometimes about ELT, sometimes not. We talk about songs in the Nightshift FB Group (ironically begun by those burning the midnight oil lesson planning). I’m unconvinced this overlapping time use contributes much. In fact, if you consider it part of the other interests, it cuts down my ELT time from 61% to 35% of my time per week, well below the burnout rate of 50%.
What’s there to be done about burnout?
If you don’t feel like you’re burning out, go with that. Just because someone in your life with differing priorities might be appalled at the time, energy and emotion you are devoting to your professional life, it doesn’t mean they’re right and you’re wrong. It doesn’t mean that you should cut it down. I still spend loads of time doing ELT things and I love them all.
If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, consider your ELT:Other ratio. Put it down on paper and see where you may shift around some of your time. It’s amazing how taking a little time for yourself to just watch the clouds and think can make a world of difference. I did yesterday evening at the pool. I felt like a kid staring up for an hour, but many non-ELT thoughts popped into my head. One cloud looked like my puppy.
Another couple of considerations that increase the decline towards burnout that we often overlook are ones that I definitely need work on (and Vicky mentions in her recent post): sleep, nutrition and exercise. I sleep on average 5-6 hours a night. I eat an OK breakfast and lunch (as I write this, I’m eating a hearty food truck version of poutine…), but supper could use some work. I almost never exercise anymore. How about you?
Where are you at on your path to burnout?