It’s Time to Make Time: 3 Steps for Early Childhood Educators to Make Yourself a Priority

A flat lay photo of a journal with self care and mindfulness techniques

Let’s be honest. Teachers generally aren’t great about taking care of themselves. You have a hard time making yourself a priority. You work too many hours, you worry about your students (and families), you don’t get enough sleep or exercise, you eat too many unhealthy meals, you don’t do things that energize you.  What’s up with that?

Teaching is consistently recognized as a high stress career in normal times,  compounded by a global pandemic (click here for tips about functioning in Early Learning and Care centers during the pandemic), and the fact that many of you are not doing what you need to do to take care of yourselves. 

Have you decided that there’s just not enough time to be a great teacher AND take care of yourself?

It’s time to make time, and to make yourself a priority. Here’s how: 


Begin with a list of core values and narrow down to your top 5. Here’s a worksheet from the Life Balance Institute to help you get started. Have you heard about Franklin Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? These are your “Big Rocks.” 

Now, fill in your weekly schedule with these top 5 priorities.  Here’s an example

And…I know life happens, and you may have to take your pet to the vet during the time you have the gym scheduled.  That’s fine.  BUT, if it’s a priority, that time gets rescheduled in another open spot.  

Blank Spaces

These are the areas you can use for anything your heart desires.  Read a book? Yes! Pedicure? Yes! Sit in the sunshine? YES! Here are a few very simple ideas for early childhood educators to practice self care…and more ideas here

Those are also the areas you fill in with the little stuff. Like email, laundry, cleaning, errands, etc. Remember the “Big Rocks?” This is the gravel that fills in between the big rocks. 

Say No

Yes, I said it.  Say no. We, as teachers, want to contribute. We want to be sure everyone’s needs are met. But we can’t do all of that at the cost of our own health and sanity.  It’s ok to say no. If there’s not space on your schedule (not a priority), then say no. If it’s something you don’t want to do, then say no.  If it’s not something that makes you happy and fills your bucket, then say no. 

Also, you can say no and still be nice. No need to give a reason. Just. Say. No. No, thank you. “Thank you for thinking of me, but I won’t be able to come to Johnny’s birthday party on Sunday.” And now you have that time to yourself to unwind, refresh, and take care of you. Look at you. You’re making yourself a priority!

One last word…this time management strategy will only work if you work at it. Will this tool work perfectly every day? Probably not. And that’s ok. You will get better and better at it the more you practice it. You will find that you aren’t missing out on the things that are important to you, and are not wasting your time with things that are not your priority. 

It’s time to make time. For you! 

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