Students and teachers navigate a unique rhythm throughout the year, working in intense bursts during term time and then enjoying space to rest and recover in holidays. During my time working in schools, I have realised how important it is to master this rhythm so we stay motivated, purposeful, and optimistic and arrive at the end of the term buoyant. To do this, requires preparation and deliberate practice.
In this short blog post, I have outlined some ideas about what actions students and staff can take to start, stay and finish well each term. This is a long list so you should choose to focus on those actions that resonate with you.
- Begin by reconnecting with your overarching purpose. Why do you do what you do? How will your actions this term feed into your big-picture vision/values? What are your values?
- Set and prioritise specific goals you would like to achieve this term. We encourage students and staff to set academic and well-being goals. In the Secondary School at St Andrew’s College, we use WOOP, an evidence-based goal setting strategy. You can read more about WOOP here.
- Get organised. Review your planner for the term and ensure all key dates, deadlines and commitments are entered so you can see the big picture.
- Create a weekly routine you will commit to. This should include time for study, exercise, socialising, rest and recovery. Minimising technology and prioritising sleep are central to an effective schedule.
- Reconnect with your colleagues and friends who support and energise you. Share your goals and make a plan to encourage one another through the term.
- Establish a weekly rhythm that could include:
- time to engage with your schoolwork. This requires you to be focused and to avoid distractions (especially social media). The Pomodoro Technique is an effective strategy to inspire flow. You can read more about this here
- at least 30 minutes exercise a day;
- time to connect with family and friends;
- space to relax and recover. Mindfulness and meditation are a wonderful way to do this (we only need 8 minutes a day);
- technology-free time, especially 2 hours before sleep;
- 7-9 hours sleep a night.
- Break down large projects and goals into manageable tasks, create lists and track progress each week.
- Be self-aware and self-regulate. Continue to check in with your energy levels, thoughts and emotional state and then ask yourself “What actions do I need to take?”. Dr Sven Hansen’s resilience spiral provides valuable advice to guide useful next steps.
- Value learning new skills and knowledge to stay engaged and motivated. Ensure you experience activities each week that evoke a state of flow.
- Use your strengths to contribute and give to others.
- Be grateful. Take time to reflect on what is going well.
It is normal for our energy to ebb and flow. In the last weeks of term, our energy levels may be depleted, we can lose focus and motivation may fall. This is the time that most requires us to be deliberate in our actions so we can finish well.
- Practise self-compassion. When energy levels are low, quieten your inner critic from trying to nudge you forward and treat yourself as you would a good friend. This may mean sharing your vulnerability by asking for help, not over-identifying with your thoughts and feelings and/or understanding that ups and downs are a normal aspect of the human experience.
- Take a break and prioritise rest. Get up and stretch, take a walk, or simply close your eyes and breathe deeply for a few minutes. Rest is crucial for energy depletion. This may mean an early night, time in nature or a technology free night in a hot bath. Make sure you are getting 7-9 hours sleep each night.
- Balance your social needs and solitary time. Some of us are extraverted and gain energy from social interaction whereas others of us recharge with quiet solitude. To gain energy you may need to carve out more “me time” or you might benefit from finding opportunities for connection.
- Reflect on your achievements and celebrate the progress you have made during the term.
- Be grateful. Share gratitude to the people who have encouraged and supported you through the term.
- Maintain a big-picture perspective that remembers there is light at the end of the tunnel. Focus on what you have to look forward to during the holidays.
Creating a rhythm for the term is not a one-time effort, but an ongoing practice that requires intentional actions and commitment. By focusing on building specific habits, you can cultivate optimism, focus and purpose. Whether it is breaking down goals into manageable tasks, prioritising rest or celebrating progress along the way, every action can make positive difference. What actions will you take to start well, stay well and finish well this term?